Friday, 17 August 2012

Tried and Trusted: Lettuce

The current potted salad leaf selection available at the back door
For anyone starting to grow their own, the choice of seeds on offer can seem mind boggling. Even narrowing the options down to just salad leaves can still be a bit daunting, especially if the grower is used to the limited choice of varieties available at the supermarket.

So it's been great to see your successes mentioned on Salad Days or tweeted to #saladchat because I'm definitely seeing a number of tried and trusted varieties being mentioned again and again. I thought I'd compile a couple of posts with your recommendations. It's especially pleasing to do so as I can at last acknowledge some of the great contributions I've received via #saladchat.

Lettuce forms the basis of many salads, so today's post is confined to their varieties. I'm sure there's something new for everyone to try. NB The Constant Gardener has put together a great guide to the types of lettuce available which is a useful read. I'll cover recommendations for other types of leaves and herbs in a future post.

Top Bloggers and Tweeters Recommend:
  • Australian Yellowleaf - 'very pretty, slow to bolt, easy to grow and the kids love growing them coz they get absolutely huge'
  • Balloon - 'We have grown a brilliant lettuce this year called Balloon, which is a good name for it!'
  • Bronze Arrow - a Heritage Seed Library variety
  • Dazzle - like a Little Gem, but with red tipped leaves
  • Freckles - 'a speckly Cos style lettuce and I love it because being a Cos the leaves are really versatile and being spotty its fun to look at.'
  • Green Salad Bowl - 'my favourite lettuce at the moment... ...I do have occasional germination issues but the flavour, ease of harvest and the eventual growth rate all make it a winner for me'
  • Iceberg - 'I love their crunch and sweetness.' and 'it may be a bit passe these days but its hard to find anything else with that wonderful crunch and wrapped around a spring roll with a sprig of mint and a chilli dipping sauce there is truly nothing better.'
  • Little Gem - a smaller, sweeter tasting variety with plenty of crispness
  • Lobjoits Cos - large, deep green crisp leaves
  • Lollo Bionda - crisp frilly leaves
  • Lollo Rosso - crisp red frilly leaves
  • Marvel of Four Seasons - aka Merveille des Quatre Saisons, Red Riding Hood, or Besson Rouge: a French heritage variety (pre-1885) available commercially
  • Oakleaf - 'any variety, great to pick leaves off as you need them, the variety of colours makes them attractive to grow in a group and they taste great in a salad.'
  • Pinokkio - a crisp and sweet cos type
  • Red Salad Bowl -  'I have been picking the leaves for weeks now, it just seems to keep on growing and it looks so pretty.'
  • Relic - a red 'deer's tongue' heritage variety available commercially
  • Rubens - quick growing and slow to bolt
  • Tan Tan - 'is a little gem type from Unwins. It's resisted the slugs very well.'
  • Valdor - one for the winter
  • Winter Density - another hardy variety for winter salads
  • Add your recommendation(s) in the Comments below
NB 'Drunken Woman' deserves to be grown for its name alone ;)

Supplier, sowing, growing and tasting notes to follow when I've put together a factsheet :)

With many thanks to the following contributors (covering growing in the UK, Holland and Australia):
Update: The following recommendations were made in the Comments (hurray - we now have a contributor from the USA):
  • Can Can - 'fantastic non bitter taste, and crops for ages, - also although non slug resistant, they only go for the outer leaves, so you can still pick layer after layer of clean hole free leaves' (via @Plantpassion)
  • Black Seeded Simpson - 'it's been great for me and a wonderful flavour (it's an heirloom variety, go figure)' and 'I grew 'Black Seeded Simpson' in the Spring, and it was wonderful! I plan to grow it again for my Fall garden' (via The Constant Gardener and Lea's Menagerie)

18 comments:

  1. Hi Michelle, That's a wonderfully useful list! Are the ones in pots all grown in the pots to start with or have they been moved in there from an earlier stage? I have only grown little gem this year, just starting to heart up now. I love the idea of having lots of varieties to choose from at the back door!

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  2. Hi Joanna - it's a mixture of both. I start my lettuces in modules and then transplant them into pots. The mixed lettuce leaves are some seed mats I'm trialing (also trying out biochar compost with them) and the rocket, mustards and coriander are mass sown into the pots. The Greek Basil is one I bought from the supermarket when my sowing failed earlier in the year and it was too late to get a decent crop from a subsequent sowing. I potted it up into a bigger pot to keep it going and is proving to be a great success - I must do a post on ideas on what to do when crops fail :)

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  3. Really useful list thanks, Michelle. Think I might give the slug resistant Tan Tan a whirl on the lottie but they'll all find a place in the school polytunnel.

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  4. Hi Cally - thanks for your contribution :) I thought Tan Tan might strike a chord with lots of us seeing how we've all been moaning about slug ravaged lettuces this year!

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  5. I'm not a lettuce fan so a list like this is useful. I only like lettuce plastered with salad cream to block out any bitterness. But not all salads are bitter so having a list to choose from might inspire me to taste wider.

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  6. I recommend Can Can, -fantastic non bitter taste, and crops for ages, - also although non slug resistant, they only go for the outer leaves, so you can still pick layer after layer of clean hole free leaves.

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  7. Hi Michelle great post as allways and i did not know half of them will be trying them out soon
    happy gardening

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  8. Fabulous, thank you, I have filed this away for future reference.

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  9. Thanks for the mentions - I could add 'Black Seeded Simpson' to the list, it's been great for me and a wonderful flavour (it's an heirloom variety, go figure).

    And I second the praise for Can Can, it's fab and v pretty too.

    In fact the only real failure I've had has been a fancy French variety - Tres Fine Maraichere which looks absolutely gorgeous but bolted as soon as it germinated, practically. Probably tasted wonderful, knowing the French, but I wouldn't know as I didn't get the chance to eat any...

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  10. I agree with The Constant Gardener's comment - Black Seeded Simpson!
    I grew 'Black Seeded Simpson' in the Spring, and it was wonderful! I plan to grow it again for my Fall garden.
    Have a great day!
    Lea
    Lea's Menagerie

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  11. Lucy - you share the same idea as NAH! He likes to eat salad as it suits his constitution, but finds it a little boring. Salad dressing or salad cream are key ingredients! I must devote a post to making salads less boring - I've had approving comments from him re the use of Greek basil and coriander leaves :)

    Claire - thanks for taking the trouble to tweet and leave a comment. Can can's added to the list...

    Linda - a lot of them are new to me too, so we'll both be trying something new :)

    Janet - great!

    TCG - you're welcome!

    Lea - in view of your and TCG's recommendations, Black Seeded Simpson is added to the list :)

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  12. That is a very, very useful list, I shall have to keep an eye out for them, especially "Drunken Woman"!

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  13. Helen - you and me both! Cally (Country Gate Gardens) says 'after an inauspicious start Drunken Woman is doing well'.

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  14. so many choices...just planted more lettuce for fall and it is growing quickly..looks like salad days ahead.

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  15. Hi Donna - looking forward to seeing what your tried and trusted varieties are in a future edition of Salad Days :)

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  16. How easy is it to actually grow salad. I'm trying to get my kids into as many 'greens' as possible.

    One of their favourites is Pak Choi. Slugs have annialated most of my other plants so do you think it's worth the effort?

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  17. HSL Asparagus Lettuce every time for me - a wonderful taste and so easy to grow, and save seed from!

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  18. Compostwoman - ooh another HSL variety, sounds great :)

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