You will find a mix of lettuces flourishing in your kitchen gardens and ready for eating. Lettuce is the favorite vegetable worldwide and is eaten in some fashion, cooked or raw, in most cultures. Although roughly 95% water, lettuce is nutritious, especially the darker varieties, with concentrations of vitamins A and C, calcium, betacarotene and folate. Lettuce is best in a simple salad to which spinach, baby beet greens, pea shoots, cilantro, parsley and other herbs may be added (ingredients also found in your kitchen gardens).
Lettuce varieties fall into four categories:
- butterhead with a mild, buttery flavor in small, loose heads
- crisphead with crisp, juicy, closely packed leaves
- loose-leaf which do not form heads but are clusters of soft, colorful and artfully shaped leaves
- romaine with long, narrow, upright leaves, usually green but also red or trout-spotted
Pick lettuce by cutting off the leaves at the root. Or if you want to continue growing lettuce for a longer season, you can pinch off the larger, outer leaves, allowing the inner leaves to grow for an additional crop. Wash your lettuce thoroughly but do not soak it in water because the soft, loose lettuce leaves will become soggy and limp. It’s best to wash them in a salad spinner right before you make your salad. You can store your lettuce unwashed for two days by wrapping the leaves in paper towels and keeping them in a perforated plastic bag in your refrigerator’s crisper.
Lettuce enjoys cool, spring weather and bolts (flowers), turning bitter with the first warm weather. So enjoy your lettuce now!