Grow Lettuce and Enjoy Your Own Salad Greens

You can grow your own salad greens and enjoy them in a variety of dishes. Learn how to grow lettuce as well as harvest, store and cook them.

| May 2013

The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook (Workman Publishing, 2012) combines two books — a garden guide and a cookbook — in one. Authors Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman show you how to grow, harvest and store the very ingredients used in their recipes. In this excerpt taken from chapter 4, “The Crops,” find out how to grow lettuce and the varieties to use as salad greens. 

You can purchase this book from the GRIT store: The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook.

More from The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook:

Beet Salad Recipe
Growing Squash for Cooking
Baked Spaghetti Squash Recipe 

When most people think of salad greens they think of lettuce. Indeed, if you have a head of lettuce you have a salad, just awaiting a dressing and perhaps an herb or two. Since lettuce tends to be very mild tasting, it’s a good background green to which you add the flavors of dressings, seasonings, other vegetables and fruits, or more assertive greens such as arugula and watercress. But this is not to say that lettuce is dull. Because of its long-standing popularity, numerous kinds have been developed, with different shapes, colors, and textures, each with their own role to play in the kitchen. These are as beautiful combined in a bowl as they are in the garden.

Grow Lettuce: Butterheads

Beautiful, roselike heads have outer leaves that lie relatively flat, and make a great base on which to set other ingredients in a composed salad. The inner leaves are more tightly folded and thereby become blanched to some degree. This makes a nice contrast of light and dark when both are tossed together. Though classically green, many butterheads are red at the tips, shading to pale green or chartreuse in the center — a gorgeous combination. Butterheads are the softest-textured lettuces, often called Boston lettuce. Bibb types, such as the popular buttercrunch lettuces, are a slightly crisper type. Soft lettuces are the quickest to wilt when used with warm dressings.

Leaf Lettuces

These lettuces form an open head that lets in the sun, so that the leaves are usually quite uniform in color, in shades of green or red. Varieties range from large to mini in size, and in texture from the super-frilly Lollo types to the flatter, lobed oakleafs. All are handy for the cook, because you can easily pluck individual leaves as needed for sandwiches or small salads, without cutting the whole head.

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