The last of the seedling lettuces are ready to go out to the garden. For most varieties, this is way too late to be planting out lettuces in North Georgia, but these are the variety called Slobolt. It can take some serious heat before bolting to bitterness. However, it is not the most tender and delicious lettuce around.
I mentioned Slobolt on the “Gardening in the South East” group at Kitchen Gardeners International, and the organizer of the group (ejmac) said that the lettuce that lasts longest into June for him is Jericho, an Israeli introduction that can stand the heat here but that also has good flavor. Since seeds for that variety are carried by Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, I will probably try it (in a trial next to Slobolt) next spring to see if I like it better.
The spring lettuces that were planted earlier include this one, Marvel of Four Seasons.
I haven’t grown Marvel before, and I really like the color. It is supposed to stay fairly unbitter even as it begins to bolt, so I am interested to see whether that is true in my yard. We certainly are having a hot April, so this year makes a good test for the lettuces. Last year it was so rainy in April, then cool through most of May, that almost any lettuce would have done pretty well here.
The other spring lettuce that I’m growing this year is the variety Capitan.
It is classically green, and it is one of those tender and buttery bib lettuces. In another week or so I will begin using leaves from both Capitan and Marvel in salads, but I am still trying to use up the winter-grown oak leaf lettuces. An overabundance of lettuce is not exactly a problem, but the midribs of those are getting bitter, so we will be having huge salads with supper for the next few days.
I have always grown lettuces with the thought that I want to be able to harvest enough to make a whole salad right from the yard. One friend, though, takes a different approach that allows her to grow and use garden lettuces and other salad greens right through the summer.
She grows a whole bed of those “mesclun mixes” and harvests the leaves when they are no more than about two and a half inches long, then adds those to lettuce that she has bought. The baby leaves give more flavor (and probably vitamins and minerals) to the salad. This is an approach that I have not even considered trying before, but now I am going to think about it…