How much lettuce do you eat during a year? You might be surprised. How does 36 pounds sound? That’s a lot of salads! The picture above, shows about 15 pounds of lettuce. We grow 32 varieties of lettuce and plant them a total of 57 times to account for weather conditions and to spread the harvest out over as long of a season as possible.
Have you ever noticed that milky latex sap in lettuce? That sap contains a mild analgesic and sedative called lactucarium. Lactucarium, while NOT a narcotic, delivers a mild opium like feeling and can help you fall asleep, or even relieve pain. So remember the humble salad when you need to relax or fall asleep!
We grow one variety of iceberg lettuce, and 31 varieties of other 4 other types: Romaine or cos, loose-leaf, butterhead and crisphead. There is another type, called stem lettuce, but it is bitter, and we don’t grow it. I have met very few people who desire the bitter types of lettuce!
I used to work at Powell Gardens, and we would use lettuce decoratively in amongst our spring annuals, such as violas, pansies, and snapdragons. The different colored foliage really set off the flower colors, and helped us create unique patterns. You can do this in your own home garden by planting your favorite spring flowers, and sprinkling lettuce seed around them to enhance the design you have created. A very cheap (and delicious!) way to fill the front flower garden! You can eat those pansy blossoms also- as long as they haven’t been sprayed with pesticides.
I am thinking about lettuce today, because I was just munching on the little baby lettuce transplants in the greenhouse (oh- the perks of having a greenhouse in your back yard!). Not sure if I can trust Mother Nature enough to plant them outside yet- that little snow storm this morning reminds me to slow down and let spring happen in its own time. I’ve planted a lot of seed outside, but the plants in the greenhouse have had a ‘Rolls Royce’ start to the season, and can’t handle huge temperature swings. It was 72 degrees outside yesterday, 99 degrees in the high tunnel (had to open it up to get that heat out of there) and today it’s snowing. Gotta love Missouri!
It’s been so warm in the high tunnels that my first crops of spinach and arugula are trying to bolt (go to seed). So, St. Andrews is coming out Monday to ‘glean’ these early crops for donating to food kitchens. I’m hoping there’s at least 50 pounds of greens for them- we’ll see.
Back to lettuce- we sow a lot of seed directly outside- especially if we are going to cut it for leaf lettuce. There are about 25,000 seeds per ounce, so the seed is tiny- and we tend to sow it thickly when we direct sow. If I want individual heads, then I usually start it in the greenhouse so I can transplant out the little baby lettuce plants one at a time and give them more spacing.
I guess I should go take the soils’ temperature before I start planting- the soil needs to be at least 40 degrees F for lettuce. With as warm as it has been- it might be there. And with a little row cover, the lettuce may take off just fine.
On another note- we’ve been featured in a local paper here in Oak Grove- the Focus. We have already gotten enough calls that we are looking at adding 2 new delivery points- one in Oak Grove, and another in Bates City. That is exciting- we really want to feed our local community, and it looks like that may begin to happen. They wrote a really nice article about us- but it isn’t available online, I’m going to check and see if I can get an online copy to post on this website, otherwise, I’ll show you all a copy when we start pickups in April Have a great day and enjoy the snow… ooops- it’s already gone! As always, thanks for reading- and go eat a bowl of lettuce! -Ami