Good afternoon to you!
Like most mornings, I went out to the garden today. I wanted to get my outside work done before the temperature got up into the 90s. Even so, it was still quite hot and humid early. The sunflowers are very close to growing through the roof! They look great and are surely taller than me! We have sugar snap peas, lettuce, chard, herbs, and flowers ready! We even have a few asparagus stalks (I didn’t think those would grow for a few years). I spent most of my time this morning harvesting lettuce, chard, basil, African blue basil, and radishes.
Today, I am going to tell you all a little bit about lettuce. I think that is appropriate as we have already harvested about 8 pounds of mixed lettuce greens. Geez, that is a lot. Phew.
Lettuce is a relatively hardy, cool-weather vegetable. The plants do best with the temperature is between 60 and 70°F. This means that we are on the tail-end of our lettuce-harvesting season. At high temperatures, like today, growth is stunted, and the leaves may taste bitter. Seedstalks may form and the leaves elongate rapidly.
Leaf lettuce, which we are growing, is the most commonly grown lettuce. It produces the crisp tasty leaves with which we are all familiar. Some lettuce (not the stuff we have) is hyper-sensitive to heat. Iceberg lettuce types will fail if not mature before the first heat wave.
If you are going to start your lettuce from seed, you should plant seeds ½ inch deep in rows. Thinning is often required, and the plants should be about 4 inches apart for leaf lettuce, and 8 inches apart for Cos or Butterhead lettuce.
Due to the shallow roots, lettuce does require some care. Weeds should be kept away and the plants need to be lightly watered often. Overwatering can be harmful to the roots and leaves. If you want to plant lettuce during the hot summer months, it is important to keep organic mulch on the soil to regulate temperature.
To harvest lettuce, you can simply cut the entire head of lettuce from the ground. If you want a continuous harvest, simply break off the outside leaves. Leave the smaller inside leaves to mature and grow. At Wild Roots, we use the second technique.
Iceberg lettuce is the most popular in the United States. It is highly available and inexpensive. It is also the easiest to ship. However, it has little taste and very few nutrients. The most abundant nutrient is water. The darker leaves have more nutrients, especially dietary fiber and beta carotene, which is converted to Vitamin A in the body; the darker the leaf, the better. Most lettuce (excluding iceberg) is a decent source of Vitamin C, calcium, iron, and copper. Some dark leaf salads barely need dressing, unlike iceberg.
Interesting fact: “Avoid storing lettuce with apples, pears or bananas. These fruits release ethylene gas, a natural ripening agent, which will cause the lettuce to develop brown spots and decay quickly. Toss lettuce that looks slimy or has black spots. The slime is the residue of bacterial decomposition and the black spots are usually mold.”
Fancy schmancy. If you can’t tell, I’m not a huge fan of iceberg lettuce…. But now I feel OK about that. Apparently it isn’t even that good for me!
That is probably all for today. I’ll try to remember to take my camera out to the garden tomorrow morning. You should all have the opportunity to see the amazing growth!
All for today!