Damn those Wiggles, whenever I think of the word lettuce all I can think about is Anthony (the blue Wiggle) singing “Let us sing, Let us sing, Fresh fruit and veggies, let us sing…..” Let us – Lettuce get it? Arrrgh. Fortunately the experience of growing lettuce and indeed eating lettuce is far less irritating. I am self suffient in lettuce, however it can be slightly time consuming to ensure you have a constant supply. This is because lettuce has a tendency to bolt during much of the year, particularly during the warmer months (and by warmer I mean temps above 20). Lettuce tends to go very bitter after it has bolted and I generally remove the plant at this point, unless I want to save the seed.
How I grow it:
I grow lettuce from seed. I generally sow a lettuce seed mix but occasionally sow an individual variety (usually iceberg or Cos). I sow the mixes primarily because I generally do want to be growing a mix of types and don’t mind too much which they are as long as they include some loose leave types as these tend to be best to be used as pick and come again plants. By that I mean pick a few leaves off the plant but leave the plant in the ground in order to come again and pick leaves another day. You can pick and come again with head lettuce (for example iceberg) but only while the plants are young and yet to form their ‘head’.
I sow seed in punnets on a monthly basis (sometimes fortnightly at the height of summer). While this may seem like a lot it is the best way that I have found to ensure a constant supply of leaves particularly during summer months when the plants are particularly susceptible to bolting. Lettuce germinates fairly quickly, the below picture was taken three weeks after seed had been sown.
At about this stage I tend to prick out the seedlings and pot up the lettuce. I pot the seedlings into 7.5cm pots.
The plants will then be grown on until they are ready to be planted out. The lettuce in the picture below is ready to be planted out. Lettuce is fabulous to use to fill gaps in the garden as in summer it grows well in shade (in winter it does need some sun), it is also great in pots if there is no space in the garden beds.
How I use it:
I have to admit to not being particularly innovative in my use of lettuce. I love it in sandwiches and use it heaps in salads but haven’t experimented much beyond that. Regardless though it is one of the things I use most frequently from the garden, largely because it is a integral part of my favourite ‘From the Garden’ lunch.
‘From the Garden’ Salad
Take any seasonal salad vegetables for example: Carrots, Radishes, Cucumber and cut into small dice. Add finely choppped bunches of parsley and mint. Combine with shredded lettuce. Toast some day old sour dough bread and rip it into bite sized pieces. Add to the salad. Sprinkle with zaatar. Dress with olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Perfect!