How do you review a lettuce? Probably one of the hardest things to do if you’re a blogger seeing as they all seem to taste relatively the same and generally serve the same purpose.
If you’ve been following this blog, you’d have seen I had decided to grow Tom Thumb lettuce – a fast growing variety ideal for growing from March all the way through to August.
I sowed quite a lot of them in a polystyrene tray and if I’m totally honest, I would sow these differently I were sowing them again – perhaps only one or two in pots and then thin them out later. I’d also keep the plants on the windowsill inside your own home purely because I have found that lettuce should be fresh and at your fingertips, in my opinion growing them at an allotment is a little bit too inconvenient, because you have to go to your allotment, dig it up or cut it and then go back. I tend use lettuce for salads for lunch, and I’m not just not that organised, so I would definitely recommend growing these on a window box for the dis-organised among you.
If you are that organised and you’re short of space at home, there is a plus side, which is that Tom Thumb lettuces were pretty low maintenance as the seed packet described, this is a real benefit. They also lasted once they were cut, provided they were kept in a bag in the fridge.
If you do plan on keeping your lettuce in the fridge for a number of days then it’s best that you’re really thorough in your cleaning and subsequent drying. Be sure to wash your lettuce in cold water, and add a few splashes of vinegar to kill any hidden creepy crawlies and be quite diligent in getting all that mud off as this could work with any moisture to create mould and quickly turn your lettuce.
I’d really recommend investing in a lettuce drier (or salad spinner) (you know those cool things that spin around when you turn the handle). Compared to lettuces you buy in the shop, these really stand above the rest – purely because it was fresher and you knew where it had come from.
Now, what variety of salad to grow next…
Over the last few weeks I’ve been growing Lettuce Tom Thumb, and now they’ve reached the stage where they’re big enough to be planted out. They’re about the size of a tennis ball, which generally speaking is a good indicator of when they need to be planted out.
Lettuce is a half-hardy vegetable, which means that they can be grown in early spring, and planted outside after all the frost has passed. Lettuce is a food staple that you can grow all summer long in small quantities.
Planting out any vegetable is more or less consists of the same method, dig a pot sized hole and make sure the roots are well covered – in this particular bed, I’ve piled on a layer of sifted soil so that root stocks can be established easily improve the plants access to water.
Things to remember when planting tom thumb lettuce
- If you can, harden off plants for around a week before planting outside.
- Leaf lettuce: Plant 4 inches apart.
- Water thoroughly when you plant them into the ground.
- I’ve planted my lettuce near some chives and mint to help keep black fly and white fly at bay.
Looking at your lettuce
- Make sure soil remains moist but is well-drained.
- Add mulch from the compost bin to help retain moisture, keep weeds down, and lower soil temperatures.
- If you see your lettuce wilting, cover them with water and slow down the transpiration rate.
- When you’re weeding, be careful of the roots as they’re shallow.
Harvesting your lettuce
- Lettuce can be harvested any time, so when you see that they’re big enough for what you need, pick them from the ground.
- If you pick lettuce and it’s bitter, it means it has matured or may have gone to flower.
- As time passes, you will want to cut the whole plant from the ground.
- Pick lettuce in the morning before they get exposed to sun.
- Keep lettuce in the fridge for up to ten days in a bag to help maintain it’s quality.
Separating lettuce is a quite a fiddly process and in the past I’ve found that I’ve run into trouble with lettuce because they bolt all at the same time and I’m left with a mountain of lettuce that needs to be eaten before it goes off.
When I planted the Tom Thumb lettuce seeds I sowed them quite thick and some seedlings are performing better than others. I’ve decided to pot up the stronger seedlings to give the others a more of a chance in the tray – I’m hoping that this approach will also help me manage the amount of lettuce I have, should they bolt at different times.
Separating lettuce is easy to do, first of all fill a 2inch pot with compost and water the pots of compost so that you’ll be transplanting the plants into moist soil. Make a hole, and then tease the lettuce out of the tray with a spoon – then gently plant the seedling in the pot.
When the weather picks up and there’s no risk of frost, I’ll plant them outside with a healthy layer of mulch from the compost bin and hope that they compliment my annual health kick. I’ll also look to create some delicious dressings to spice up that all important salad.
Health benefits of lettuce
- Dietary fiber
- Vitamin B-6, C, A, E, and vitamin K
- Induces Sleep
- Lowers Cholesterol
- Controls inflammation
- Protects Neuronal Cells in your brain
- Controls Anxiety
Sowing lettuce is the next thing on the list to do at the allotment and the variety I plan to sow is an old favourite – Tom Thumb (or black seed as it’s otherwise known as). I know that Tom Thumb lettuces date back as far at the 1850’s, but having conducted some reading online, I am unsure as to who first started to produce this variety of lettuce.
The avid gardeners (and historians) among you will know that they’re also known as Wheeler’s Tom Thumb, after H. Wheeler & Sons – who introduced the seeds in 1858. But, it’s also been claimed that William Thompson was growing them much earlier under the guise of laitue gotte à lente monter – the French name given to this particular variety. This also begs the question, ‘where did the French find Tom Thumb lettuces?’
Either way, it’s popularity flourished and within two decades it was being grown in the states and the world over.
Tom Thumb produces heavily crumpled leaves that equate to the size of a tennis ball.
Sowing lettuce Tom Thumb seeds is dead easy. All you need to do is sow the seeds into some multipurpose compost and cover with 13mm of soil. Germination should start within 6 to 12 days.