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.