THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG
Everything seems to indicate the year 2020 will coincide with the height of the North American reign of the quintessential convenience lettuce: the Iceberg. A trend that has been observed for a few decades now, it should be noted that sales of this variety of lettuce are steadily declining in the face of the competitiveness of its contemporaries, which, for their part, continue to grow.
Some would argue, and rightly so, that the growing consumer craze for greens such as romaine, curly, arugula and kale weigh heavily in this balance. Let us not forget to add to this equation, however, the ever-growing popularity of pre-mixed mescluns which entered our grocery stores during the 1990s.
But where does the Iceberg come from? And in what context has this strain managed to find its way to us?
It was probably in the 1930s that the Iceberg made its big appearance on the Quebec market. Enhanced with cream, drizzled with a cider-based vinaigrette or cut into a chiffonade in a ruffed grouse soup, this lettuce quickly took root in our eating habits, particularly because of its economical price. In its commercial infancy, the Iceberg came to us by train from California, well packed under a mountain of snowy ice that we had taken care to renew throughout its long journey from the West Coast. Although some still maintain the myth that the name “Iceberg” would have been attached to it because of the snow mound covering them during their transport, reality seems to indicate this lettuce of the batavias family inherited the name Iceberg due to its pale colour and crisp, forced core that is popular in a wedge salad.
The Iceberg variety first appeared in 1894 in a Philadelphia seed company’s catalogue: the W. Atlee Burpee & Company (now Burpee Seeds). When we take a closer look at this company’s history, we understand that its founder, a certain Washington Atlee Burpee, was born in Sheffield, New Brunswick. And when we dig a little further into this story, we learn the origins of this businessman go back to French Canadian immigrants whose surname Beaupré, anglicized, would have swayed towards Burpee by necessity.
To the effect that history sometimes leads us to learn to navigate new horizons.
To be continued…