Do you enjoy eating fresh garden lettuce through most of the summer? One of the secrets to accomplishing that lettuce-lovers-goal is to plant numerous varieties.
Each variety can perform a bit differently. So as variables (like temperatures, humidity, rain fall, etc) change, you want to have at least one or more lettuces that are still performing well enough to maintain the good taste you want.
What I Grow
I usually grow at least a dozen or more varieties just for that very reason. About 7 or more are must-haves for me. Then I try several new varieties to see if I can discover another favorite.
The Ones I Can’t Life Without:
Black Seeded Simpson
One of the first that I plant in the spring, this 150 year old lettuce is a dependable loose leaf heirloom that performs well when other lettuces won’t. Even as things heat up and it starts to stalk, I can still get eatable leaves, especially after a rain. (See my post Lettuce – Secrets to Getting Eatable Lettuce Well Into Summer.
This year I’m going to try Simpson Elite which is touted as an improved Black Seeded Simpson with even better taste and an extended harvest time of about a month.
Be sure to put the varieties Green Ice and Green Grand Rapids on your list to try as well. They’re similar to Black Seeded Simpson, but each has a different color and slightly different taste.
This lettuce in the crisphead group is one of the most delicious lettuces I’ve ever grown. When it’s thriving in the garden, my daily lettuce harvest tends to be 90% Sierra Batavia. (See my post on Sierra Batavia.)
Reine des Glaces
One of the most beautiful and delicious of the crisphead group. It is light, crisp, and can really make a salad outstanding. Although it will make a head similar to iceburg lettuce, I harvest it like a loose leaf lettuce to enjoy on a daily basis.
As many pictures as I’ve taken of this lettuce, I can’t find one to use in this post. What a shame, because it makes a beautiful large rosette of bronze and green oakleaf lettuce that I’d love for you to see. Pretty enough to grow as an ornamental.
It’s a mild tasting lettuce and makes a beautiful bed for other foods and won’t compete with the other flavors.
I also like to include a green oakleaf lettuce like Antares. It was new to my garden last year and I was very impressed with how it held during the heat of summer.
Forellenschluss or Freckles
Supposedly, there is a difference in these two lettuces, but I certainly can’t tell it. They look, taste, and perform the same to me.
It’s seldom that lettuce gets a chance to head in my garden, since I graze it each day. But this romaine makes a picture perfect head of lettuce if you let it mature.
Green Deer Tongue
This heirloom dates back to the 1700s. That was it’s original appeal for me. I continue to plant it because it often does well when other varieties are not performing their best.
Nice taste and forms a loose head of triangular leaves.
Outredgeous Red Romaine
Gorgeous in the garden and worth planting just for its beauty. I especially enjoy the young leaves in salads. By the time its mature, I have other favorites that I’d rather eat.
I’ve had this loose leaf lettuce in my garden every year for about 36 years. Great used as baby lettuce. Stands the heat and is slow to bolt. Good in cool fall temperatures as well.
The good taste of one of its large red-burgundy-over-green ruffled leaves after a rain in the hot summer can amaze you.
Other Lettuce Varieties on My List for This Year:
Capitan – A butterhead/bibb lettuce with small loose heads. Buttery flavor is really good. I never seem to grow enough
Continuity (Merveille des 4 Saisons) – One of the the most beautiful in the world. Thin leaved large head has a wonderful flavor. Plant in early spring while it’s still cool. (Will bolt too quickly if you plant late into the season.)
Anuenue – An Hawaiian lettuce that stands the heat.
Jericho – A Romaine from Israel that stands the heat.
Tennis Ball – A small loose butterhead that was among Thomas Jefferson’s favorite lettuces.
Crispy Frills – Beautiful in the garden and in the salad. Head has fan-shaped leaves and frilly top like frisee.
If you’re a big lettuce fan like I am and want great tasting fresh-from-the-garden lettuce well into the heat of summer, planting numerous varieties is one of the secrets to getting it.
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