Since Romaine lettuce is an open leaf variety of lettuce that only closes around its stalk at the end of its growth cycle, it is prone to insect infestation.
The insects most commonly found in open leaf lettuce are small and black or green — easily camouflaged by the vegetable — and may be found between the innermost leaves of an infested head. Therefore, each leaf must be washed and checked individually, with great care. Use this helpful checklist for best results:
- Cut off the lettuce base and separate the leaves from one another.
- Soak leaves in a solution of cold water and a small amount of soap.
- Agitate the leaves in the soapy solution.
- Spread each leaf, taking care to expose all its curls and crevices. Using a heavy stream of water, remove all foreign matter and soap from both sides. A vegetable brush can also be used on both sides of the leaf.
- Leaves must be checked over a light box or against strong overhead lighting. Pay careful attention to the folds and crevices where insects have been known to hold tightly through several washings.
Occasionally, worms may be found in burrows within the body of the leaf. Look for a narrow translucent burrow speckled with black dots breaking up the deep green color of the leaf. These burrows will often trap the worm within the leaf. It is essential to discard this part of the leaf.