If you were able to follow my suggestions in previous posts and
- Planted far more lettuce than you thought you’d need
- Planted it continuously through the spring
- Planted it in every shady spot in the garden
— you should still be eating delicious lettuce.
What’s Happened So Far with My Lettuce
In June we had a few hot spells, but my lettuce is still going strong. Most of it has stalked and some of it’s bitter, but much of it’s delicious. Yesterday and again this morning I picked an enormous amount in anticipation of the “over 100 degrees” temperatures that are being forecast for the weekend.
After the extreme heat it might be a while before I’ll be able to find some that is eatable. It’ll take a bit of doing —- but it CAN be done. It just takes practice in knowing what to look for and when to do the looking.
Warning – This is NOT Conventional Information
This is the kind of information you’re not going to see elsewhere on the internet. If you did — I’d be very surprised.
But I think I know the reason. If a gardener has not had hunger (or maybe a strong desire to experiment) force them to find out first hand how to get eatable lettuce from their garden in hot weather — they won’t even know it can be done — because they’ll give up too quickly and stop trying. In all probability they’ll have the belief that “once it’s bitter you’ll never get any good lettuce from the plant — so why not pull it up.” And it’s very unlikely that my experience – as set forth in this post — would have any credibility with them at all.
Sometimes (or most of time) it’s the “dire necessity” element in a situation that brings to light what really is possible. That’s what happened to me with lettuce.
Here’s How to Get Good Lettuce Well into the Heat of the Summer
#1 – When to Harvest (in other words: When to Do the Looking)
Your best chance (although not your only chance) at getting eatable lettuce will be after temperatures cool and preferably after a rain. (And by the way, after 100 degree temperatures – anything in the 80s will be cool. Maybe even the low 90s. Your body will be able to tell.)
Unless it’s a cool and/or overcast day, harvest early AM (maybe about 9AM) after the lettuce has had the night to refresh its life force and to cool even more. If that’s not possible —- harvest in the afternoon after the sun has left the lettuce.
Important: Always carry a bowl of water with you to place the lettuce in immediately after its picked.
#2 – What to Look for — With lettuce Looks are Everything
I also hope you took my suggestion in the Lettuce – How to Have More in the Off Season and have really paid attention to how good lettuce looks; its color and its shine. Basically this same look of good lettuce at its prime is what you are going to look for after lettuce is past it’s peak.
And if you have lettuce that has not yet flowered, you’ll have even greater success in finding more that’s eatable.
Green or speckled Lettuce
When green lettuce stalks and blooms it tends to have a blue cast to it. The blue means bitter. Even now I have lettuce in the garden that has started to flower and the leaves have a blue cast. In spite of that I am still picking it — but I look for leaves that have the same green and same shine that the lettuce had when it was at its best. Sometimes it’ll be big leaves at the bottom. At other times it can be small leaves at the top that have just come out on lettuce that has not yet flowered.
Red Lettuce or red/green lettuce
Most of the time the leaves of bitter lettuce will be dull rather than shiny. This includes lettuce of almost any color.
My red lettuce that is stalking and blooming is about 3 feet tall. It has a dull purple cast to most of the leaves. I look for leaves with the same dark shiny red that the lettuce had in its prime.
Still Stronger than Young Lettuce
Keep in mind that if you taste the lettuce in the garden it is not going to be the “new” sweetness of young lettuce. It’ll be stronger. It might show some white sap where you pick the leaf, but if the color is right and you soak it in cold water for an hour or so (in the refrigerator if possible) you’ll more than likely be delighted with the taste. (With the dull leaves that have turned the wrong color — you could soak them forever and they would still be bitter.)
With a little practice and attention to detail, you’ll get delicious lettuce for salads well into the heat of summer.
Other Posts on Lettuce:
Organic Gardening it easy, efficient, effective and it’s a lot easier.
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