Weather means more when you have a garden. There's nothing like listening to a shower and thinking how it is soaking in around your green beans.~Marcelene Cox
Much of my vegetable crops are still in their baby stages of a cold spring. No way will the “corn be knee high by the 4th of July” in my yard, but already I’ve harvested some snap peas and asparagus stalks, several artichokes and finally my lettuce is ready! I have 8 heads of an heirloom green leaf with sturdy leaves on the left, a few of the diminutive butter head Tom Thumb in center, so soft and delicate the quickest to grow in my collection with a 34 day maturity and a new one this year…Rouge d’Hiver - this beautiful red Romaine type with a 48 day maturity on the right.
I pick a few individual large, outer leaves off each head of the Heirloom variety. That way the plant will continue to send new leaves out from the center. You don’t want to harvest the whole plant like you find at the market. You will get a much longer harvest this way. But for the red Romaine here it’s way too soon for the heads to have matured and formed into what you’d recognize as a long, lean Romaine head so I’m picking out tiny whole plants early in order to thin out the bed. That will make room for the rest to form full heads. As you can see, I didn’t have time to grow and plant individual seedlings, I just scattered seed over the soil surface. Kinda messy looking but successful none the less. I could also just treat the red leaves like a Mesclun mix and snip leaves off with clean scissors, being sure to cut well above the growing point so the plant will send out new leaves again. Known as the cut-and-come-again method, you just grasp several leaves and cut. Or if you prefer you can individually hand pick the biggest leaves for your daily harvest like I am doing with the Heirloom.
Did you know that if you harvest your lettuce at temperatures over 65 F (18 C) degrees it will often have a bitter taste? That’s why you will often see advice to pick your lettuce in the morning hours. At the cooler morning temperatures the plant is hydrated, not stressed, and the sugars of the plant are at their peak. Morning harvested vegetables are crisper, juicier and sweeter. This is a good rule of thumb for all your vegetable harvesting…not just lettuce.
To wash fresh garden lettuce I just dunk the leaves into a sink of cold water with about a cup of plain white vinegar added. The vinegar will kill any bugs and gnats that you don’t want to find in your salad bowl later. They will drop to the bottom of the sink so I give the leaves a second dunking in plain cold water. I wouldn’t want to live without a salad spinner with as much lettuce as I grow. Getting most of the water off the leaves allows the salad dressing to coat the leaves better.
You get the most nutrients if you eat it the day you harvest it but when I get too much I store them in the refrigerator drawer for vegetables. I never put veggies in regular plastic bags, but rather the green plastic bags made for refrigerating fruits and vegetables. They truly do prolong freshness in the fridge. And the bags last a long time. I keep using mine till a seam gives way and tears. One box lasts me more than a year.
In Bloom in My Garden Today: Alpine Strawberries, Armeria, Baptesia, Bletilla pink, Chives, Columbine, Daylily, Daphne caucasica ‘Eternal Fragrance’, Dianthus, Gaillardia (blanket flower), Hardy Geranium, Hosta ‘sum and substance’, Huchera, Kniphofia (torch flower or red hot poker, Lavendar, Nepeta ‘six hills giant’ (catmint), Peas, Peony, Phygelius ‘new sensation’ (cape fushia), Primrose vailii, Rose, Salvia, Saxifraga andrewsii (irish saxifrage), Sedum, Schizostylis ‘watermelon’, Thalictrum rochebrunianum (meadow rue), Tomato