When well-meaning people ask the impossible question “what’s your favorite vegetable?”, I usually become briefly paralyzed and then after an uncomfortable period of hemming and hawing, land on “lettuce”. We eat SO much lettuce in our house, and once you’ve tasted garden fresh lettuce, you can basically never go back. I love to switch things up with the seasons as different varieties perform better in different seasons. The varieties I’m describing here are ones that I’ve been growing for years, which I hope will grow well for you in your garden. Here are my best lettuce varieties:
1. My number one ride or die is butterhead lettuce.
Best grown in the cooler shoulder seasons of spring and fall, these monsters are guaranteed to be as big as your head. The interior of the head gets somewhat blanched and gives way to a creamy, white/pink/purple/green leaf. The whole thing almost looks like a giant flower. I think what I realized when I started growing these varieties is that I love soft lettuces. Maybe that’s weird but please don’t tell me if it is. I’m really happy over here with my soft salads.
These varieties will do best from transplant (not direct-seeded) and appreciate having about 1 sq foot of space. Pirat grows great in both spring and fall, but will easily bolt in the summer. Mirlo does best in the fall, as sometimes the heavy spring rains can rot the bottom a bit.
2. The All-Season Superstar goes to lettuce mix:
Lettuce mixes can be super tender, or quite hardy depending on what’s in the mix. I love the Salanova variety that can hold up to just about any dressing and has some fluffiness to feed a crowd. These are also “cut and come again” lettuces that can be harvested multiple times, and they always survive the whole winter for an early spring treat. You can create your own lettuce mixes by purchasing several varieties of baby lettuces and mix them all together. Make it more of a mesclun mix by adding kale, mustards, and arugula.
Plus, you can harvest these varieties more than once. Learn more about how to get multiple harvests from these plants in this post.
3. Irresistibly named and sized is little gem lettuce:
Grow these perfect little gemstones in the summer. They’re a crunchy and flavorful variety that mature at the same time as tomatoes for the perfect BLT. The leaf size fits perfectly on a sandwich! CUTE! With a short time from planting to maturity, they’ll be ready for harvest before they bolt from the summer heat.
4. Sweet, tender, buttery and compact Oak Leaf lettuce:
Honestly, the title says it all. These are just beautiful to look at and fall apart easily into a light salad. The leaves have a pretty shape and feel like the right easy-to-bite size on a fork.
5. For nostalgia, Iceberg lettuce:
Raise your hand if you grew up eating iceberg lettuce salads topped with ranch dressing on the side of your giant slice of cheese pizza. How about shredded finely on a big squishy sandwich?! My modern way of enjoying iceberg is as a quartered fork-and-knife salad topped with vegan ranch, bread crumbs, red onion and fresh dill. So refreshing, crunchy and comforting as a whole meal.
Please let me know what you think!
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