Iceberg Lettuce

Head-lettuceBy Kurt Nolte

Lettuce, a member of the sunflower family, is one of the oldest known vegetables and is believed to be native to the Mediterranean area.

California produces nearly 70% of U.S. head lettuce.

Arizona produces approximately 30% of U.S. head lettuce.

Yuma grown head lettuce represents about 95% of the U.S. winter lettuce production averaging over 45,000 planted acres per year.

Approximately 35% of lettuce is fresh cut for salad mixes.

The U.S. consumption of Head Lettuce is about 23 pounds per person per year.

Lettuce is shipped primarily by refrigerated trucks.

In the U.S. head lettuce ranks second only to potatoes as the most popular vegetable.

In Yuma lettuce is grown by direct seeding into the fields.

Head lettuce is harvested when the heads reach about 2 pounds.

Because head lettuce is quite perishable, it is harvested by hand in the field, packed into boxes or bins and immediately transported to a cooling facility or fresh cut salad plant.

More lettuce is grown in Arizona than any other vegetable crop.

Arizona ranks second only to California in winter head lettuce production.

In the Yuma area, head lettuce yields have averaged over 700 cartons per acre.

Lettuce is believed to be one of the first vegetables brought to the new world by explorer Christopher Columbus and has been grown in the United States since colonial times.

In the early 1900s, the iced shipping industry developed in the western states, expanding the range and popularity of lettuce.

Today, in terms of production value, it is the leading vegetable crop in the United States.

Lettuce production occurs year-round throughout the United States, through a sequence of production in Arizona and California.

The majority of production from April through October occurs in the Salinas Valley of California, while production from November through March occurs in Yuma, and on into the Imperial Valley of California.

Huron, California is responsible for much of the production during the transitional period between seasons.

The biggest share of U.S. lettuce exports are shipped to Canada and Mexico.

Source: Kurt Nolte is an agriculture agent and Yuma County Cooperative Extension director. He can be reached at or 726-3904. For additional information please visit