One that I hadn't noticed before is reine des glaces. I was alerted to its presence on Madame Morin's stall on Saturday by the woman behind me in the queue. 'Oh!' she exclaimed, 'You have reine des glaces! You hardly ever see it these days! It's so good to see someone growing the old varieties! My husband loved it and used to grow it! It has such a distinctive taste!'
Reine des glaces and tomato baguettes.It is a cut leafed lettuce and I thought it looked like an escarole type, which are a little bitter. 'No, no', I was assured. 'It's a batavia.' This is the variety I usually buy, as it is crisp, mild and keeps well (we don't eat nearly as much lettuce as your average French person). Monsieur Morin seemed very pleased with all the attention his reines des glaces were getting and handed me one saying 'Here, try one. Take it, it's a little gift for you'.
So I brought it home and we had some in a simple tomato sandwich for lunch. Very nice - very crunchy and a flavour as if it has been seasoned with salt and pepper.
It turns out, now that I've googled the subject, that batavias are iceberg lettuces. This will give anglophone readers a vision of a melon sized ball of tightly packed pale green leaves with no taste but plenty of crunch. French batavias are picked before they get to that stage and are a small loose head of bright green leaves. It further turns out that reine des glaces is an extremely popular 200 year old variety that everyone raves about. It is reliable no matter what the weather, and particularly so in the cold (hence the name, which means 'ice queen') making a small round head and best if not watered. Those who are particularly enamoured even talk about its unique 'hazelnutty' flavour. Its only drawback seems to be that it sets very few seeds and so can be difficult to source if you want to grow some.