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Growing Lettuce for the Love of It

By Debbie Nowicki

Tags: lettuce, spring growing, saving seeds,

Debbie NowickiI Love Lettuce! I grew up eating iceberg lettuce and even into my adult years all I ever knew was iceberg … then I started paying attention to lettuce and either I became aware or society as a whole noticed ALL the different types of lettuce out there! There is loose-leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, salad blends and baby lettuce; all types of varieties and colors.

Lettuce in a bowl

The best part about lettuce is you can start out with a bed of crisp lettuce and top it with an assortment of other foods. Add garden fresh vegetables and herbs or freshly grilled chicken or fish, even fruit and you have one filling nutritious meal and it’s so easy!

Blueberry, chicken and lettuce salad

I have never been successful growing lettuce in my garden and this year I decided to change that. I realized it was time to take affirmative action when I noticed the outrageously high prices on all the produce, lettuce included, on my last visit to the grocery store. I remember seeing an article somewhere on growing lettuce and sure enough after browsing my past issues of GRIT I found it! Last year March/April 2008 issue, “Grow Luscious Lettuce”! How perfect! I can totally relate to the author, Cathy Wilson and her experiences growing lettuce. I would scatter seed in several rows in early spring, thin out after several weeks and harvest leaf by leaf hoping for a bowl of hardy crisp lettuce for a nice salad. I would end up adding the handful of lettuce greens to store bought lettuce and pretend to be happy with my less than bountiful yield.

This year I intend to follow the advice given in this article.

• Start early INDOORS (count back 2 ½ months from your last frost date). I started my lettuce seed this past weekend; 5-6 seeds in individual pots instead of hundreds of tiny seed scattered in rows (picture of lettuce seed in pot), covered with plastic wrap and set under grow lights.
• Keep soil moist – do not allow to dry out.
• Add compost and slow release fertilizer pellets halfway through the season.
• To harvest, cut with a serrated knife right above the crown.

The four types of lettuce I will be growing: Red Romaine which sprouted up after only 3 days, Green Ice, Green Towers and Summer Glory Blend.

Red romaine lettuce sprouts

Along with my lettuce choices, I will be planting some other greens; Arugula, Swiss Chard and Spinach. Last year I had great success with spinach and allowed many stalks to go to seed. I planted the seed the following fall and had another crop of spinach and I still have plenty of seed to plant again this spring!

Saved spinach seed

I have been on the lookout for old cookbooks which I believe will make a fun and interesting collection! (picture of cookbooks)

Cookbook selection

I found several so far and “The Farmer’s Cookbook” by Mitzi Ayala has a few good tips I will share.

• A tomato grower will tell you never to refrigerate a tomato. The delicate tissues of this tropical plant will deteriorate rapidly at temperatures below 50 degrees.
• Soak beans 24 hours to leach out the gas-causing oligosaccharides, throw out the soak water and then cook.
• Strawberries shouldn’t be washed until just before eating them. Washing dissolves the strawberry’s natural waxy coating and allows water to enter it like a sponge. A rapid breakdown of vitamin C and loss of flavor results.

Strawberry bread

Leafing through the cookbook I spotted this recipe for Strawberry Bread and had to try it! Enjoy!!

Strawberry Bread
½ cup (4 fl. oz) butter
1 cup (7 oz) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 eggs
2 cups (10 oz) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt (I used just a pinch)
¾ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup (4 fl. oz) sour cream
1 cup (8 oz) pureed strawberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla and lemon juice and beat until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Sift together flour, salt, cream of tartar, and baking soda. Mix together sour cream and strawberries. Alternately fold flour mixture and strawberry mixture into egg mixture. Pour into a 9x5 loaf pan and bake for 1 hour.