Common Name: Lettuce (Lactuca sativa)
Seed Saving Level: Easy: Perfect, self-pollinating flowers. Little out-crossing with lettuce so isolation is not a big concern.
Varieties: Loose-head varieties—butter-head or Boston—will mature in 60-75 days. Loose-leaf varieties, suited for cut-and-come again harvests, mature in 40-60 days. Romaine varieties, with long narrow leaves and heads mature in 75+ days. Crisp-head varieties, which form cabbage-like heads, mature in about 75 days.
Planting: Stagger plantings every 10 days, planting smaller amounts more often as weather becomes hot. Lettuce requires afternoon shade in warm regions. Companion plants include carrots and radishes. Ready for picking when leaves are clean, crisp and healthy.
Watering: Near the base, not the leaves, don’t forget to mulch to help keep soil moist. Be sure the mulch is pulled an inch or two back from the crown of each plant. Mulching near the crown can cause the plant to rot.
Fertilize: Lettuce and leafy crops need plenty of nitrogen. Feed lettuce with manure tea or fish emulsion 1-2 times during the growing season to ensure growth.
Seed Saving: Outer leaves can be pulled without affecting seed production. Collect seeds from plants that bolt later so as not to select for early bolting. Put a paper bag around some seed heads so they’re not eaten by birds. When stalks are completely dry, cut and thresh over a sheet. Sieve seeds and leave on newspaper to dry for a few weeks.
Saving Seeds (2011) by Robert and Cheryl Gough, Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners (2002) by Suzanne Ashworth, Seedswap (2013) by Josie Jeffery, almanac.com, Native Seed Search: www.nativeseeds.org/pdf/seedlistingcatalog.pdf.
Books and ebooks:
- Lettuce, SNAP-Ed Connection, U.S, Department of Agriculture, opens a new window
- Butter Lettuce, University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, opens a new window
Recipe: Vegetarian Couscous Lettuce Wraps
- 2 cups vegetable broth or water
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 2/3 cups couscous
- 1 red or yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, diced
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 1/2 cup unpeeled, cored apple, diced
- 1 cup seedless grapes, halved
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
- 3 tbsp minced fresh Italian parsley
- 1 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1/2 tsp honey or agave
- 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 12 large lettuce leaves
Prepare the filling: Place broth or water, salt, and oil in medium saucepan; bring to a boil on high heat. Let stand 5 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff with fork. Place couscous in medium bowl and cool to room temperature. Add bell pepper, onion, apple, grapes, pine nuts, and parsley to couscous. Gently toss.
Prepare vinaigrette. In small bowl, stir vinegar, honey, and salt to taste with a fork. Stir in oil and season to taste with black pepper. Add to couscous mixture and toss. Place one lettuce leaf flat on the cutting board, rib down, with the bottom of the leaf facing you. Spoon a portion of couscous mixture across the leaf slightly lower than center, leaving 2-inches of leaf empty on each end. Fold the bottom of the leaf over the mixture and fold in sides of leaf. Roll leaf.
Source: Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce: A Guide to Easy-to-Make Dishes with Fresh Organic Produce (2010) by Cathy Thoman.