Since lettuce loves to grow in cool weather, we could start new lettuce seedlings for harvest in about six weeks, giving plants a little cover against extreme cold if necessary.
Our average date of first frost is Oct. 9, but thats usually followed by a week or two of Indian summer, cool nights and pleasant days. Thats very good lettuce weather.
Leaf lettuce is easily grown and if harvested correctly, will regrow from the same plant. Leaves are arranged in a loose cluster, and outer leaves touching soil or mulch may be ravaged by slugs. If you gather the leaves together and cut the cluster at least one inch above the soil line, the leaves should re-grow, so youll have cut-and-come-again lettuce. Or you can harvest the outside leaves, time and again. The growing point is inside, like spinach and Swiss chard.
Usually cut-and-come-again produces three times before reluctantly pumping out a few more leaves.
Leaf lettuce may be red, green, speckled, yellow or bronze. Its useful for tossed salads, tacos, or in varieties with very large leaves, for wraps. Some varieties are especially resistant to frost. Any varieties with arctic, north pole or winter (or the French dhiver) in the name is a winter lettuce. Some of these have rather tough leaves, so trial and error is your best bet for finding varieties you prefer.
Leaves may be shaped like oak leaves, deer tongues, frilly or smooth. Baby leaves may be harvested in 30 days, mature leaves in 50 days, depending on variety.
Imagine landing on an island in the Mediterranean and seeing spiky heads of lettuce growing wild. We now call that cos lettuce, after the name of the island on which it was discovered by Roman soldiers. They loved that lettuce, so they collected seeds and grew it wherever they were assigned for any time. It was so closely associated with Romans it became known to the rest of the western world as Romaine.
Romaine lettuce is usually a deeper green than other lettuces, and that means more nutritious than other lettuces. There are red and speckled leaf versions, too.
Gem lettuce is a miniature variety of Romaine lettuce, whose popularity grew during the last century. Gem is often part of the salad course at high-end restaurants.
Butterhead and crisphead lettuces are also known as cabbage lettuces.
Harvest Romaine, Gem, Butterhead and Crisphead lettuces by pulling up plants and cutting off root. If necessary, pull off outer leaves before taking it indoors. Most are ready in about 50 days.
Butterhead lettuces are those with loose, open heads of tender leaves. They thrive in fall and spring. I think Garden Babies is one of the best butterheads available, adaptable to growing in containers. Leaves are soft, have an almost buttery-in-your-mouth feel and are more sweet than bitter. Other varieties of butterhead lettuces are Merveille des Quatre Saisons, Santoro, Speckles, Drunken Woman Frizzy Headed, Torenia, Matchless and others.
Buttercrunch lettuces are a cross between butterhead and Romaine varieties.
Theyre less susceptible to leaf rot than butterhead lettuces, mainly because their leaves are borne in a vertical rosette, where air circulation is good.
Were all familiar with one of the crisphead lettuces, iceberg lettuce. It has such a high water content that a standing joke is the state of California ships carloads of water around the nation. The water is in the form of iceberg lettuce. These heads have crispness, but little if any flavor.
Batavian lettuces have thick crunchy leaves, resistant to bolting in summer heat.
They are, however, greedier feeders than other varieties of lettuce, so need more fertilizer than other types. Batavia was the Roman name for European lowlands, today part of the Netherlands. Dutch settlers in Indonesia (then the Dutch East Indies) named a city Batavia, but the provenance of Batavian lettuce is probably that area of the Netherlands.
Stem or Chinese lettuce, which some seed sellers call Celtuce, has a crunchy stem topped by lettuce leaves. It is not a cross between celery and lettuce as some have claimed, according to garden writer Joy Larkcom. It, too, is an early spring or fall crop that must be seeded indoors in late summer, as it will not germinate at temperatures above 80[0xb0] F.
Later winter greens growable here are endives and chicories, both more tolerant of the low light of winter, although they must be shielded from extreme cold. Of course, corn salad or mache is hardy here throughout winter, covered or uncovered.
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