Sunday, February 16, 2014
Lettuce is rich in vitamin A and K and a good source of folate and fiber. Ever wonder which was the most nutritious lettuce variety?
Here is a quick run down:
*Runner up-Loose leaf
*Next-Bibb (butterhead) lettuce
Romaine lettuce has long, upright leaves with thick stems. Romaine lettuce gained fame in the Caesar salad. Today, you can get the traditional type, Parris Island Cos, shorter types like Cosmo, red speckled Forellenschluss, and deeper red types like Marshall or Outredgeous. Romaine lettuce does moderately well in heat and shade and likes loose, rich soil. For a great summer variety, Jericho thrives in hot weather.
I love loose leaf lettuce. It is a great all around green to have. I will cut off the lower leaves as I need them for salads, letting the center continue to produce leaves, harvesting lettuce for weeks this way. Loose leaf is more tolerant of soil conditions than Romaine and there is a bevy of types out there. My favorites are Oakleaf, Mascara, Simpson Elite, and Red Sails. Red Sails stayed sweet well into summer last year. I sow loose leaf seed about every 3 weeks to keep a continuous harvest.
Butterhead lettuce is succulent! I just love the texture and juiciness of this lettuce. The butterheads make smaller heads with lighter centers. Buttercrunch is a popular variety. There are the typical green and many with red coloring like Drunken Woman Frizzy Headed. Gotta love that name! Tom Thumb is a cute little heirloom pre 1850’s. It tolerates heat well, too. Winter Density has excellent cold tolerance.
Crisphead/Batavian lettuce is very refreshing with its high water content and tight heads. These lettuces require a very long growing season and do not tolerate hot temperatures so plant early in the spring. The famous Iceberg lettuce is part of this crisphead lettuce family. Tennis ball is a pre 1804 medium sized lettuce grown at Monticello by Thomas Jefferson is best grown in the spring. Loma is a heat tolerant variety that does well spring through summer.
Lettuce is a cool season crop, thriving in spring and fall. Hardened lettuce can survive to temperatures that drop to 20 degrees. Lettuce seeds germinate in temperatures between 40-75 F. I scatter sow seeds in early March in pots that I keep in full southern sun. Pots warm up much faster in the spring than the ground so you get a head start by using pots.