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Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is a cool-season leafy green which belongs to the Cicoreae tribe of the Compositae family. It is grown commercially on a global scale, but the greatest consumption ratio lies with the USA.
In this article,, we focus on you DIY gardners how grow your own vegetables. Read on to learn some quick pointers on how to harvest lettuce.
However, its richness in terms of taste and nutritional value strongly varies across the regions, making it a bit difficult to find the best quality at the best price.
As an alternative, growing your own lettuce seems like a much better option to many people. However, to get a healthy supply, you need to know how to harvest lettuce.
Harvesting lettuce, in particular, requires the use of a few simple techniques. The health of your harvest depends on when you sow it, how you care for it, and how and when you pluck its delicious green leaves.
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When and How to Harvest Lettuce
Lettuce grows better in cool climates, so you get winters and autumn for sowing lettuce seeds for a satisfying harvest.
Once you’ve planted your lettuce, it may take around 60-90 or even a hundred days to grow full leaves. This is when you should start being extra cautious of the growth status.
The best lettuce is harvested right before it hits maturity. This means that the outer leaves are still relatively young and tender as compared to the inner growth.
The reason behind this suggestion is that premature lettuce leaves have an abundance of Vitamin A and tend to have a longer lifespan.
Therefore, they continue to thrive for long after they’ve been plucked. However, if you take too long and collect your harvest when the lettuce has already matured, it won’t stay fresh for long.
Moreover, by the time you pluck the leaves, some of them may have already wilted and acquired a woody, bitter taste with lessened nutritional value.
This is why it’s essential to peep into your kitchen garden every day to pick leaves that are about to mature.
Harvesting Lettuce Will Depend on the Type of Lettuce
Most species of this lettuce have a similar growth period and similar ways of harvesting. Wherever there’s a difference in methodology, it stems from the different structure or nutritional composition of the plant. Here’s what you need to know:
Butterhead, Romaine, and other loose-leaf types of lettuce can be harvested in three different ways. You can either:
- Dig up the whole plant right down to the roots,
- Chop the lettuce about an inch or so above the soil’s surface, or
- Pluck individual leaves as you see fit. A reminder not to pull out the entire plant as there’s often a chance of regrowth to lead to a possible second harvest.
As for other varieties such as the Crisphead, you will need a different approach. You need to wait till the center is optimally stiff in order to pick your harvest. Then you can follow the above steps.
Should You Trim Your Harvested Lettuce?
Gardening gurus have worked meticulously to unearth when your lettuce is in its best texture, taste, and nutritional value. There are a couple of things you need to know when trimming lettuce:
First, the time of the day matters. Early morning is the best time to treat yourself with a visit to your precious produce.
It’s a chilly, dewy affair as you pluck individual leaves from their stalk. More importantly, the sun isn’t out yet, so your harvest can escape any chances of overexposure to the sun.
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Second, it’s important to trim lettuce right before it reaches maturity. The easiest way to notice this is to keep track of the plant’s flowering cycle.
It’s when the lettuce plant starts sprouting stems to grow more seeds. This is when your plant is in its freshest form. Trim away some of the outer leaves so that the rest of the plant continues to grow.
The last thing you need to know is why you trim lettuce in the first place. The answer is simple: to prevent overgrowth and suffocation.
When the plant’s outer leaves crowd over the inner growth, it can cause a lack of access to an optimal atmosphere.
Sunlight, water, and air may not reach through the outer parts of the lettuce. As a consequence, the inner leaves may suffer from malnutrition.
This also ruins most of the produce, so it’s better to trim away the outer growth on a regular basis.
Having your own lettuce garden is a hobby with plenty of benefits. Remember, lettuce is one of those vegetables that are great to plant with other companion vegetables.
From saving on your wallet to going green with your grocery supplies, you can’t go wrong with fresh lettuce produce inside your own home.
Here, we’ve summarized all you need to know when it comes to harvesting lettuce. We’ve also mentioned some of the most promising places you can purchase your lettuce plants from!
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Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she studied at the University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center. She continued her gardening education by working on organic farms in both rural and urban settings. She started UrbanOrganicYield.com to share gardening tips and tactics. She’s happy to talk about succulents and houseplants or vegetables and herbs – or just about anything in a backyard garden or hydroponics garden.