The variety of lettuce is quite phenomenal. There are many different types, including: Butterhead, Crisphead, Cos, Loose Leaf and Batavian. They come in a range of colours, from blonde through shades of green, speckled, and reds to purples. Leaf shape can be round, wavy or serrated. The texture varies from soft to crunchy and the different varieties also mean that you can plant and harvest lettuce all year round. Varieties cross-pollinate easily which is one reason for the wide variety, they have also been cultivated for hundreds of years. The name ‘Lettuce’ refers to the milky substance that exudes from the cut stem.
Little Gem is a dwarf growing Cos variety. It is the best selling gardeners lettuce and can be sown right throughout the growing season. It lacks the uniformity of the modern Little Gem types but is still a real gardeners favourite. NIAB recommended.
How to grow: Grow in the miscellaneous section of your rotation. Depending on variety, Lettuce can be sown nearly all year round. Sow seed in modules of good organic seed compost at a temperature not exceeding 18 degrees C. Transplant into the growing site when large enough at a distance of 20-30cm. Lettuce can be sown outside from late March onward in most seasons. Sow in shallow drills and thin to the spacing above. Keep well-watered in dry weather. Pests and diseases: As lettuce is so widely grown there are a number of diseases that affect commercial crops in particular. New varieties are being continually developed with added resistance, but slugs and aphids are sometimes still a problem. How to cook: Lettuce can be braised and even cooked in soup but it is primarily a salad plant. It is not just to be thrown together with a bit of cucumber and tomato though as there are many other uses. It’s great in burger buns, sandwiches, spicy wraps and even as a bed for a tikka curry. We like to wash lettuce and dry it in a clean tea towel or you can use a salad spinner. Mix with other leafy greens like cress, rocket or cornsalad for a perfect green salad.
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