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There are Enough Varieties of Lettuce for a New Salad Everyday of the Year


Types of Lettuce

There are literally hundreds of lettuce varieties available, although some vary only slightly in size or days to harvest. For practical purposes, lettuce is divided into four distinct groups:
  1. CRISPHEAD, which forms a firm head with a crisp texture and distinct veins. Iceberg is the most commonly grown commercial variety.

    • Ithaca - A good choice for fall crops. Heat can cause the heads to be looser, but resistant to bolting.

    • Summertime - Large heads are slow to bolt in summer heat, while the heads are forming. Frilly leaves resist tip burn. 70 days

  2. BUTTERHEAD, also forms a head but the texture is more soft and pliable with less distinct veins.

    • Bibb - An heirloom lettuce that has remained popular over the years. Bibb has a tender texture and The Cook's Garden says that the term "butterhead" was coined to describe it. 57 days and 45 days

    • Buttercrunch - An American cousin of Bibb, but more tolerant of hot weather. 65 days

    • Marvel of Four Seasons - A popular European variety having green leaves tipped with red. This variety can be planted late in spring as well as late in summer and fall. Not quite four seasons, but very close. 68 days

  3. LOOSELEAF - Forms a kind of bunch instead of a head. Looseleaf lettuce resprouts from a cut stem without losing quality in flavor or texture.

    • Salad Bowl - An All America Winner. It's easy to grow and fairly heat resistant. There is also a red salad bowl variety. 60 days

    • Lollo Bionda - A frilled edge Italian lettuce that is easy to grow and has a long harvest period. Lollo Rossa is its red cousin. 48 days

    • Oakleaf - Oakleaf and its many varieties grows in a rosette and works well as a cut and come again type. There are red oakleafs, curly oakleafs, royal oakleafs...

  4. COS or ROMAINE, an upright plant with long narrow leaves that look corse but are actually quite tender.

    • Rouge d'Hiver - A red leafed romaine with good cold tolerance which also performs well in spring and summer, making it ideal for succession planting. 60 days

    • Little Gem Mini Romaine - An English heirloom that grows to only 5-6 inches with the crisp texture and the romaine flavor of its big brother. 56 days

Mesclun is a mixture of greens. Generally these are harvested while young, so succession planting is essential. About a row foot is needed for a salad. Most Mesclun mixes are cut and come again varieties, so cut about an inch above the ground with a scissors to keep it growing. Leaf crops like chicory, chervil, cress, dandelion, sorrel mustard greens and herbs can also be mixed in. 35 - 45 days

Here's more on choosing and growing lettuce.

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