Garden Greens: Lettuces

There are many varieties of lettuce, from crisphead, romaine, butterhead and loose-leaf. All can be grown quite easily in containers and raised beds. My two favorite ways of growing food, especially for those with clay soil or small spaces. Leafy greens, especially lettuces are among the easiest plant foods to grow. If you are just starting out and nervous, I suggest starting with greens, especially lettuces. Of all the varieties of lettuce romaine has the highest nutrient content. It is considered an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A, Folate, and Molybdenum. Romaine is considered a very good source for vitamin C, iron, copper, potassium, and dietary fiber along with other vitamins and minerals. It is thought to have a calming effect. The latex that lettuce can secrete was once used as a substitute for opium. In fact eating a large amount of lettuce that has bolted and gone to seed has been know to cause comas! I was shocked to find this out in my research. Thankfully bolted lettuce is far too bitter for anyone to eat!

Lettuce is in the Asteraceae plant family, it’s botanical name is Lactuca sativa. It is a cool season crop, 35°F to 65°F(1.6°C to 18.3°C), warmer temperatures will make lettuce become bitter and bolt. (Produces flowers and eventually seeds.) With heads of lettuce you can grow 4 in a square foot of space, loose leaf varieties, dependent on size can grow closer together if you harvest often. If you’ve read my blogs for long you will notice I always say harvest often. This is especially a must for lettuces because most varieties, minus head lettuces, are cut and come again plants. You can get easily 3-5 separate harvests from a single lettuce plant before it will start to lose its zest and will start to get bitter. You could get more, but the taste might not be as good as those first few harvests. Only harvest ⅓ of the outer leaves at any one time. This is easy to do when you got multiple plants in your garden. I suggest succession sowing so you are always in various stages of growth. You can succession sow until temperatures reach 75-80°F. Fresh, young baby leaves are tender and have less of a bite to them. Most lettuces grow between 4-8 inches tall and 6-12 inches wide. They do have long tap roots that can grow up to 60 inches. You can sow lettuce seeds as soon as the soil can be worked. Lettuce seeds are extremely small and can be a bit difficult to sow because of their size. They can take 2-10 days to germinate. You can use floating road covers to help mitigate the large amount of pests that like lettuces.

Lettuces are best know for their use in salads and their ease of pairing week with many flavors. Some flavors that pair well with lettuces like romaine are: dill, garlic, lemon, scallions, tomatoes, cucumbers, chickpeas, avocado, almonds, oils, onions, vinegar and so much more. Bibb lettuce pairs well with flavors like: apples, garlic, chiles, delicate herbs, honey, lemon, olive oil, shallots and vinegar. When creating flavor pairing, keep in mind the taste of the lettuce. Pair bold more bitter lettuces with bold flavors and herbs that can handle them. Pair delicate lettuces with lighter flavors so you do not over power the lettuces flavor. You can cook or grill some lettuces to bring a deeper  flavor. Grilled romaine with my standard lemon juice, garlic, shallots, olive oil, and apple cider vinegar with oregano is simply delicious. There are many ways to incorporate lettuces into just about every meal. Use raw leaves for crunch in sandwiches or wraps, toss in your favorite salad dressing with all the layers and textures of a great salad or even use strips of lettuces with fresh herbs as the bed for your favorite protein. I love adding warm protein to a salad, letting the warmth gently wilt the lettuce. It is so good!

I would love to know your favorite way to use lettuce! Let me know in the comments. If you need help in the garden or kitchen I’d love for you to attend one of my upcoming workshops or book a coaching session. Learn with me.

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