Saturday Spotlight: Forellenschluss/Spotted Trout Lettuce

One of my favorite lettuces has somewhat of an identity crisis. In its native Austria this heirloom lettuce goes by the name ‘Forellenschluss’, which means ‘speckled like a trout’s back’. Fedco Seed traces it back to 1793, but says it was developed in Germany. Meanwhile, here in America it’s usually called ‘Spotted Trout’, though some seed catalogs list it as ‘Freckles’.  However, it’s not in any way related to the Amish butterhead called ‘Speckles’. Are you confused yet? I know I am!

Spotted Trout lettuce

‘Spotted Trout’ lettuce

I generally just call this lettuce ‘Spotted Trout’, which is how it was listed at Hudson Valley Seed Library where I first bought my seed. Regardless of what you call it, this lettuce is a beautiful and tasty romaine that has apple green leaves mottled with reddish specks. Though classified as a romaine, this variety has soft buttery leaves that lack the crisp rib common to most romaine types. Which is not a bad thing at all in my book. But like most romaine lettuce varieties, it does have an upright growth habit, which makes it a good choice for intensive plantings.

Spotted Trout Art Pack from 2010

Spotted Trout Art Pack from 2010

‘Spotted Trout’ performs well for me in both spring and fall, and it usually overwinters here when protected by a cold frame.  To say that it is hardy would be an understatement. It has survived temperatures near 5°F here with only the light protection of my Agribon-covered cold frame. But hardiness is not the only thing going for it. It has a mild taste and tender texture. And it is also slow to bolt to flower, which is a good thing unless you are trying to save the seed, which I was able to do last year.

saved seeds from Spotted Trout

saved seeds from ‘Spotted Trout’ (with chaff)

The color in this variety is quite variable. Some plants are more speckled than others, with some having very few speckles at all. Frank Morton at Wild Garden Seeds has done some selections on this variety to try and stabilize the coloring, and has released his own version called ‘Flashy Trout Back’. I include mention of it here (and a photo) because it is not really a different variety, but a result of his hard work to save seed from the best colored plants each year. And his selection is definitely more colorful, though I don’t think it tastes any different from the original ‘Forellenschluss’.

Flashy Trout Back lettuce from 2012

‘ ‘Flashy Trout Back’ lettuce from 2012

Right now I’ve got ‘Spotted Trout’ plants growing in the greenhouse. They are ready to harvest as we need them, though they aren’t quite full sized yet. I started some more seeds this week for a late spring crop that should be ready before really hot weather gets here. The bunch in the below photo was used for Chalupas I made this week, which is a dish with pork and pinto beans served over lettuce and corn tortilla chips. It’s sort of like a taco in a bowl, only better I think.

Spotted Trout lettuce, ready for salads

‘Spotted Trout’ lettuce, ready for salads

I hope you’ve enjoyed this Saturday Spotlight, and I’ll be back soon with another variety. Until then, Happy Growing from Happy Acres!

To see my other Saturday Spotlights, visit the Variety Spotlights page.


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11 Responses to Saturday Spotlight: Forellenschluss/Spotted Trout Lettuce

  1. Daphne says:

    I’ve grown that variety and I called it Freckles since Spotted Trout put the wrong taste in my mouth for lettuce. And the other one I couldn’t pronounce. I didn’t keep growing it because it was a softer lettuce and I like my romaine more crunchy.

    • Dave says:

      It’s funny, but I actually grew it as Freckles several years ago, before I knew about the other names. Then when I tried the seed from HVSL I learned the history and found out it was the same lettuce!

  2. Michelle says:

    I grew that variety years ago and have fond memories of it. My preferred harvest method at that time was cut and come again so I always had it as nice tender young leaves. I may have to give it a try again.

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  4. Liz says:

    I grow this lettuce too – its sold here under the name Freckles. My ‘Freckles’ have always looked like the Flashy Trout Back – lots of spots. I find that it reasonably heat tolerant as well – although it does bolt in summer it doesn’t do it quite as quickly as some varieties.

    • Dave says:

      I think the lettuces grown in the greenhouse always have less color, perhaps because they get a more filtered light. I notice that the Spotted Trout grown outside usually has more freckles.

  5. I’ve been growing it over summer in Australia too and after our summer I can definitely confirm that it’s heat tolerant as well as the cold that you mention, which is great to hear, hopefully I’ll be able to grow it all year as it’s really tasty and looks great in salads.

    • Dave says:

      It sounds like it is truly an international variety then! I’ll have to try it in our summer heat. Most lettuce usually wilt in summer here, no pun intended.

  6. We have that variety here too, only we call it freckle lettuce, it happily self seeds everywhere in my garden, even the paths, and is sweet enough to keep the kids happy. we love it.

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  8. Mark R Jacobson says:

    okay this lettuce is a self-enclosing romaine if you leave it be long enough. it closes the head at the top, but most people harvest it before that. leave it go, tho, and you won’t be disappointed.

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