Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Much Anticipated Lettuce Harvest!

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.
Happy Harvesting!

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

Author’s photo


Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

I always learn such great tips from your blog. I hurried out to harvest some lettuce today before it gets too hot! Your tips are always so good, I've got to share!!

Joan said...

Thank you so much Debra for the encouraging words! Not that I want it to be too hot here for us but some continual warmth would be nice, yes? Well, we will bask in the warmth today and tomorrow and be joyful with hopeful hearts for the next week. :) Thanks for reading!

Kathy J said...

I did NOT know that picking the lettuce in the heat of the day (which is what I do when it's dinner time) is what makes it bitter!! SO glad to know that! Sometimes I wonder how I go so long without knowing these simple things.
Your scattered lettuce seeds seem to work perfectly in your garden (as I inspected the day you weren't home and before you had posted this). It adds to the charm of your English style garden.
I think you should post a picture of your very quaint outdoor seedling greenhouse!! Love it!
Look forward to your next post, even if it is a short one. I always enjoy the quotes you "dig" up, lol

Joan said...

Thanks Kathy for commenting. Do you mean the window-well I cover with plastic? I could make a post on that but it will have to wait till next spring's growing season as right now it's all taken apart as I don't need it in the summer. Thanks for the idea and reading!

Kathy J said...

Yes, the window well is exactly what I mean. You never cease to amaze me at what you can do with limited space. Think what you could do managing our acerage!!?
I will look for this next spring, you know!