Lettuce

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Lawn & Garden

Lettuce is an essential ingredient in salads and sandwiches, and it comes in various types to fit everyone’s preferences. It’s also an ingredient in many vegetable recipes. This article covers growing lettuce, the different types, selecting lettuce, and the health benefits of lettuce.

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Lettuce leaves range in color from light green to reddish-brown.
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About Lettuce

Lettuce is a hardy and fast-growing annual vegetable with either loose or compact leaves. The color of the leaves ranges from light green to reddish-brown. When the lettuce bolts or goes to seed, the flower stalks grow 2 to 3 feet tall with small yellowish flowers on the stalk. The most common type of lettuce found in supermarkets is iceberg lettuce, which is difficult to grow at home. Butterhead lettuces, with loose heads and delicate crunchy leaves, are easier to grow. Cos or Romaine lettuce forms a loose, long head and is between a butterhead and leaf lettuce in flavor. Leaf lettuce is easy to grow, grows quickly, and adds bulk and color to salads.

Common Name: Lettuce
Scientific Name: Lactuca sativa
Hardiness: Very Hardy (will survive the first frost)

In the next section, we will explain how to grow lettuce.

For more information about lettuce, try:

  • Vegetable Recipes: Find delicious recipes that feature lettuce.
  • Vegetable Gardens: Grow a full harvest of great vegetables this year.
  • Gardening: We answer your questions about all things that come from the garden.

Growing Lettuce

Lettuce is a cool-season crop that is usually grown from seed planted in the garden four to six weeks before the average date of the last frost. Long, hot summer days cause the plants to bolt. If your area has a short, hot growing season, start head lettuce from seed indoors eight to ten weeks before the average date of the last frost and transplant as soon as possible so that the plants mature before the weather gets too hot.


Lettuce is a cool-season crop.

Beginning in the middle of summer, sow successive crops. In regions with mild winters, you can grow spring, fall, and winter crops. To sow lettuce seeds directly into the garden, plant them 1/4 inch deep in wide rows. Once the seedlings are big enough, thin out the leaf lettuce to 8 inches apart and head lettuce to 12 inches apart. Thinning is crucial as heading lettuce will not form heads and all lettuce may bolt if the plants are crowded. Lettuce grows best in well-tilled soil that has good drainage and moisture retention. Keep the soil evenly moist, and do not let the shallow-rooted lettuce plants dry out.

Harvest the lettuce by either picking the outer leaves and letting the inner leaves develop, or by harvesting the entire plant at once by cutting it off at ground level. Try to harvest when the weather is cool as the leaves may wilt in the heat of the day. Chilling the lettuce will crisp up the leaves again.

Here are some tips for growing crisp and delicious lettuce:

  • Raised beds covered with heavy-duty floating row covers can protect against frosts and light freezes in early to mid-spring and mid- to late fall or even winter in mild climates.
  • Cold frames, heated by the sun, make it possible to grow lettuce earlier in the spring and later in the fall or winter. Cold frames are translucent boxes that are approximately 2 feet wide, 4 feet long, and 18 inches high. The top is hinged so that you can tend to the plants inside or cool the cold frame on mild, sunny days. Plant lettuce seeds or seedlings in the frame and close the lid to hold in the heat.
  • A hot bed, which is a souped-up cold frame, is an excellent place for winter lettuce. Lay a heating cable under the cold frame, cover it with wire mesh to prevent damage to the cable, and top it with a layer of sand mixed with compost.
  • To extend the lettuce harvest, pick the largest leaves from the outside of the plant and allow the younger inner leaves to continue growing. However, when the spring weather starts to get warm, you need to take the opposite approach. Cut off the whole plant before it starts to send up a flower stem (bolting) and turns bitter.
  • Plant a lettuce and tomato garden in an 18- or 24-inch-wide pot to get twice the harvest. You can pick the lettuce as it grows and leave extra space for the tomatoes. Here’s how: Fill the pot with a pre-moistened blend of 1/3 compost and 2/3 peat-based potting mix. Plant several leaf lettuce seeds or small seedlings around the edge of the pot and a tomato seedling in the middle. Place the pot in a sunny, frost-free location. Water as needed to keep the soil moist, and fertilize once a month or as needed to encourage good growth.

Keep reading to learn about the many varieties of lettuce.

For more information on lettuce, try:

  • Vegetable Recipes: Find delicious recipes that feature lettuce.
  • Vegetable Gardens: Grow a full harvest of great vegetables this year.
  • Gardening: We answer your questions about all things that come from the garden.

Types of Lettuce

With numerous types of lettuce to choose from, home gardeners will never get tired of this garden favorite. Lettuce types are divided into Butterhead, Cos (Romaine), Crisphead, Loosehead (Leaf), and Mixed. The varieties within each type are listed below.

Butterhead varieties:

  • Bibb,
  • available year-round and has small, round leaves with a peppery taste. When selecting lettuce, look for vibrant colors and firm leaves. Avoid wilted or slimy leaves, as they cannot be revived. Lettuce should be stored in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator, with the roots intact and in perforated plastic bags. Romaine lettuce is a popular choice and has a hearty texture, while arugula has a hot and peppery flavor. Chicory and endive have slightly bitter tastes and are best in well-seasoned salads. Radicchio has a less bitter flavor and can last up to a week, while watercress has a delicate texture and peppery taste. Many mixed lettuces are available, including Summer Glory, which contains seven heat-resistant varieties. For more information on lettuce, check out vegetable recipes, vegetable gardens, and gardening resources.

    Lettuce can be sold in bouquets or vacuum-sealed packs, but it’s important to choose dark-green, glossy leaves and store them in plastic bags. When preparing lettuce, it’s important to wash the leaves well to remove dirt and grit that may have settled between them. Dressings should be stronger-flavored when paired with stronger and more bitter salad greens. Different types of lettuce have varying nutritional values, with iceberg lettuce ranking lower than other leafy greens. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming 2 cups of vegetables per day, with 2 cups of raw greens equaling 1 cup of veggies. The darker the color of the salad green, the more nutritious it is, with beta-carotene being a key nutrient found in darker-colored greens. Folic acid, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber are also present in most salad greens.

    Chicory is a vegetable that contains vitamin C, an antioxidant nutrient that can help prevent heart disease, cancer, and cataracts. Other salad greens, like arugula and watercress, are part of the cruciferous family, which can also help fight against cancer.

    If you’re interested in the nutritional values of fresh romaine lettuce, here’s what you need to know: a serving size of 1/2 cup, shredded contains 0 calories, 0g of fat, and 1g of carbohydrates. It also contains less than 1g each of protein and dietary fiber, as well as 2mg of sodium, 8mg of calcium, 58mg of potassium, 1,365 IU of vitamin A, 32 micrograms of folic acid, 6mg of vitamin C, and 1,362 micrograms of carotenoids.

    Looking for more information about lettuce? Consider checking out some vegetable recipes, learning about nutrition, growing your own vegetable garden, or finding answers to your gardening questions. Keep in mind that this information is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician or other healthcare provider.

    FAQ

    1. What is lettuce?

    Lettuce is a leafy vegetable that is often used in salads and sandwiches. It is a member of the daisy family and comes in a variety of types, including iceberg, romaine, and butterhead lettuce.

    2. Where did lettuce originate?

    Lettuce is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean region, specifically in ancient Egypt and Greece. It was later cultivated by the Romans and brought to other parts of Europe and eventually the Americas.

    3. How is lettuce grown?

    Lettuce can be grown in a variety of ways, including in gardens, greenhouses, and hydroponic systems. It requires well-draining soil and plenty of water and sunlight. It can be grown year-round in some regions.

    4. What are the nutritional benefits of lettuce?

    Lettuce is low in calories and high in fiber, making it a great option for weight loss and digestion. It is also a good source of vitamins A and K, as well as folate and antioxidants.

    5. Can lettuce be frozen?

    Lettuce does not freeze well and can become wilted and soggy when thawed. It is best to eat lettuce fresh or store it in the refrigerator for up to a week.

    6. How do you wash lettuce?

    Lettuce should be washed thoroughly before eating to remove any dirt or bacteria. To wash lettuce, first remove any damaged or wilted leaves. Then, fill a large bowl with cold water and soak the lettuce for a few minutes. Rinse the lettuce under running water and pat dry with a towel or salad spinner.

    7. What are some common uses for lettuce?

    Lettuce is most commonly used in salads and sandwiches, but it can also be used in wraps, soups, and stir-fries. It can be grilled or roasted for added flavor.

    8. Is lettuce safe for pets?

    Lettuce is generally safe for pets, but it should be given in moderation. Too much lettuce can cause digestive problems in some animals, particularly rabbits. It is best to consult a veterinarian before feeding lettuce to pets.

    9. Can lettuce be grown indoors?

    Lettuce can be grown indoors using a hydroponic system or in containers near a sunny window. This is a great option for those with limited outdoor space or for year-round growing.

    10. How can you tell if lettuce is fresh?

    Fresh lettuce should have crisp leaves and a vibrant color. It should not be wilted or have any brown spots or discoloration. To ensure freshness, look for lettuce that was recently harvested and store it properly in the refrigerator.

    11. What are some common varieties of lettuce?

    Common varieties of lettuce include iceberg, romaine, butterhead, and leaf lettuce. Each variety has a slightly different taste and texture, making them suitable for different types of dishes.

    12. What are some popular lettuce-based dishes?

    Popular lettuce-based dishes include Caesar salad, Greek salad, and lettuce wraps. Lettuce can also be used as a base for a variety of toppings, such as grilled chicken, shrimp, or tofu.

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