Thursday, June 10, 2010

Lettuce Trials

This year I planted many new varieties of lettuce that people sent me. I still have more to trial, but with the house switch it may not happen until next year. This year I grew eight varieties. Two were my old tried and true Red Sails and Deer Tongue, both from my own saved seed. New this year were Little Gem from Dan, Tom Thumb from Stefaneener, Bath Cos from Jody, Paris Island from Granny, Freckles from Emily, and Dazzle from Jody. All of the new lettuces except Tom Thumb were romaines.

Little Gem won my heart for an early romaine. It is small, but much faster than the others to produce. I still don't know how it does in the heat because I ate its two heads early before they started to bolt.

Bath Cos bolted before the heads were ready. They are the really tall bolting plant in the top photo. I wasn't in love with the color of the heads either. They had a strange grayish cast to them.

Dazzle lived up to its name. It was a stunning very deep red. It did not however grow well in the garden. It remained small. It never formed a head and it bolted in our recent heat.

The last two were Freckles on the left and Paris Island on the right. These are full sized romaines. They didn't grow as well as I would expect a romaine to grow either. Our weather has been way too hot for them.

Freckles was stunning in the spring with freckles of red scattered over the green leaves. When the heat hit the red changed to brown and it isn't nearly as pretty. There are attributes more important than how it looks though. Taste being a major one. I tasted an inner leaf of both Freckles and Paris Island. Paris Island tasted like I expected a romaine to taste. This is not surprising since it is the romaine all the commercial growers use. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn't bitter. In the photo you can see that it had just started to bolt. Its leaves were getting farther apart, but it held its flavor. Freckles tasted good, but it was a very different flavor. I wish I could describe it to you. It had the barest hint of that bitter flavor too. Not enough to taste bad. I'm guessing it might even disappear once it has been in the fridge for a bit. The last attribute to look at is production. Freckles was a heavier head by about 50%. This is huge. I'd love to see how both of them do in the spring in a good year. Usually we get a day or two of heat in the spring, but not weeks of it.

Eventually I'd like to pick one variety of romaine as my standard in my garden. I would like only one because it is easier to grow multiples of the same plant. I usually grow back up plants, but having to grow backups for every variety is space consuming. But I'm having trouble deciding. I love all three of the ones I picked. I might just have to grow them all another year. In addition I have other romaine seed that I haven't even tried this year. I won't get a chance to grow it this year since I only have the rock wall (read hot) garden to plant them in and it is a bad spot for lettuce. Next year when the whole garden is in then I can do more trials.


  1. Lettuce is one of the only veggies besides beans that I'm not scared to branch out on and try different varieties. I'm glad at least some of them worked for you, and I love the speckled one. How beautiful.

  2. I have grown little gem often and it really is a nice little lettuce. Appreciated the reviews of the different lettuces you are trialing because the selection of lettuces out there is rather overwhelming at times. Nice to have someone's first hand experience as input before taking a gamble on a new variety and tieing up valuable garden real estate on something that may (or may not) turn out worth it.

  3. I wasn't thrilled with Bath Cos, either. I don't remember having it bolt, but I also didn't like the color and the texture was almost leathery.

    I'm having great luck with Dazzle, though. I have 4-5 nice, small heads forming. I haven't harvested it yet. I may add it to my other lettuces of choice - Tennisball and Deer Tongue.

  4. Wow. That's one crazy looking bolting lettuce!
    I love the speckled varieties. Such personality!

  5. I also like the Little Gem. I have purchased another variety of romaine this year which I have yet to plant. I hope it's as good.

    Thanks for the lettuce reviews. I'm sure it will come in handy when I am ready to purchase seeds for next year.

  6. For comparison, I ran out and cut a head of Paris Island. It was about 12" high, maybe 10" wide at the top. It didn't have much of a "heart" developed, but an earlier one I'd pulled had a nice, tight heart. It weighed 13 ounces, and has the Romaine flavor.

    So far, Mr. Granny likes "Summer Crisp" (Burpee), as do I, and I also like "Buttercrunch", "Paris Island Cos" and Yugoslavian Red. I have some other interesting ones that have yet to be taste tested. Anuenue looks to be an excellent one, but germination was poor and I only have about 2-3 heads of it growing. One is nearly ready to try. A packet of mixed lettuce gave me the most gorgeous red, I wish I knew the name of it. Even if it didn't taste good, it would be worth growing for its color and frilly leaves alone. It's absolutely red clear through, no green or fading.

  7. As always, you are amazing. I'm so desperate for fresh lettuce, I'm planting seeds every couple of weeks just to have the baby leaves because it's too hot for the heads to form. I'm going to keep growing lettuce into the early fall to see what happens. Thanks for the information and the pictures are great!

  8. Ribbit, I like Freckles too. It is an old heirloom too so it makes me love it even more.

    kitsapFG, you have fairly similar growing conditions to me too. Well maybe not this year, but most years.

    Jody M, I think in a cooler year Dazzle would have done fine. This year has just been too hot.

    Momma_S, When I don't go to the garden very often I always seem to find something amusing.

    Robin, I hope your new romaine grows well.

    Granny, I really want to try Anuenue since it is a Hawaiian lettuce and it ought to hold up to the heat well.

    Kalena Michele, well you got spinach to grow there. Eventually you might find the right variety to grow in your climate.

  9. Glad you liked the little gem! I really like it too. Kind of reminds me of a cross between romaine & buttercrunch.

  10. Dan, I'm not a big buttercrunch but Little Gem is very very nice.