I know I’m not the only gardener that gets caught up by all the pretty photos in seed catalogs and online listings. So earlier this year when I went to Wild Garden Seeds (WGS) website to order some kale and parsley seed, it should come as no surprise that I also wound up ordering quite a few of their lettuce seeds. And there are lots to choose from, as they currently have a whopping 117 varieties listed, many of which were bred by owner Frank Morton right there on their Oregon farm. Of course I also have lots of other lettuce seed from other sources, so it is safe to say there should be no shortage of lettuce around HA this year!
Spring is prime lettuce season here, and I try and keep a good assortment of plants growing at any given time. Today I got cold frame bed #4 prepped and planted with some of those seedlings. I set out 36 plants in the bed, which is about 4 foot square in size. I decided to plant 3 each of 12 varieties, 7 of which I have never grown and 5 which are familiar to me. It will be good to compare the new ones with those I’ve grown before. I’ll highlight a few of them since many are not exactly widely known or grown. They will provide a wide range of colors and textures, and should make for some tasty salads starting next month.
I’ll start with one called Pele (WGS), which is a short romaine type with spotted red leaves. It was a cross between the University of Hawaii bred Manoa and Frank Morton’s spotted Leopard. I guess naming it after the Hawaiian Volcano Goddess is a nod to its island roots, and the plants have fiery red blotches even at a young stage.
Next up is one called Three Heart I got from the Seed Savers Exchange. It’s a butterhead type and according to the listing it’s a family heirloom donated to the SSE by fellow Hoosiers Steve and Anna Marie Stoller of North Judson, Indiana. Michelle (From Seed to Table) has been growing this one and it has made some lovely heads of lettuce for her, so I have high hopes for it. The leaves are distinctively rounded, and chartreuse green in color.
Outredgeous (WGS) is a red romaine I have grown here before. However, in 2014 it achieved lettuce Rockstar status when it was the first lettuce to be grown in outer space at the International Space Station. How can you not love a lettuce with garden creds like that?!? It is definitely red in color, and forms a loose head at maturity. I’m also growing an improved version of it called Outstanding (also from WGS) that I’ve grown for several years now. I don’t think I’ve ever grown the two of them at once though so it will be interesting to compare them side by side.
Another new one here is called Total Clown (WGS). It’s a red-streaked romaine that showed up as a volunteer on the WGS farm breeding plot. We’ll see how it does here at Happy Acres.
Australian Yellow is a lettuce I’ve grown many times before, though not recently. It’s a slow-bolting leaf lettuce with yellow-green leaves that sort of reminds me of Black Seeded Simpson. The big, tender leaves make a nice contrast to the reds and dark greens of other varieties.
Tall Oaks is a gene pool mix from Wild Garden Seeds that resulted from a cross between oak leaf lettuce types and romaines. Some of the ones I have growing now have a reddish tinge to them and some are all green, as you can see by the two in the above photo. I’ve also planted some of these in my salad boxes in the greenhouse, where they look more like oak leaf lettuce than they do romaine types. Which is fine with me because they’re all good in the salad bowl!
I’ve been growing a crisphead type called Jester (WGS) here the last couple of years. It’s a result of a triple cross between Flashy Troutback (a selection of Forellenschluse), Merlot and the French heirloom crisphead Reine des Glaces (aka Ice Queen). I’ve grown the first two of those here before, and this year I’m growing Reine des Glaces (SSE) for the first time. In the above photo, that’s Jester on the right and you can see can see it gets its pointy leaf margins from the Ice Queen on the left. They should make a nice color combo in the salad bowl too.
I also planted Radichetta (Seeds from Italy), Big Flame (WGS), Smile (Adaptive Seeds) and Crisp Mint (SSE) in the cold frame bed. I am looking forward to all of these showing up in my harvest basket next month, and I will be sure and get them to pose for a photo when they do.
Lettuces are one of the vegetables I always have more types than I can handle, and I don’t have near the variety you have. And I do have cold frame envy. No place to put them anon no sun besides, but it would be nice to have lettuce coming out of the frames long before I can work the garden.
Oh my, I know just how difficult it was to resist temptation at WGS, impossible! And it’s not easy at SSE either. Three Heart has been a delight, it’s such a unique looking butterhead and good to eat also. I’m trying one of Pele’s parents, Manoa, in hopes of having a butterhead that will do well in warmer weather. And I’m trying Jester’s cousin Joker. I think that that’s the extent of the overlap in our lettuce selections, which says a lot about the huge selection of lettuce varieties available to grow. It’s also a sad commentary about how few selections of lettuce are available at grocery stores and even farmer’s markets.
As I am unfamiliar with those variety names but the plants look familiar I wonder whether they go under a different name here?
Those are some great looking varieties! I’ve only just sown my lettuce, so I’m still a ways off from any harvests – am really looking forward to once again bypassing the salad aisle in the grocery store!
I’m a great believer in having a nice variety of colours, shapes and textures in a salad, so I’d love to have access to all those lettuces of yours. I have about 7 or 8 varieties growing, but I’d like more. If only I had the space…! I’ve got some Ice Queen on the go, and also Yugoslavian Red. The ones that do best for me are some that were sent to me by a friend in the Czech Republic. Twice she has sent me two different varieties, and both time they have done really well. Maybe conditions in my garden are just like those in the Czech Republic?
Your lettuce seedlings look so amazing. It looks like you’re miles ahead of me in the seed starting department. My tomatoes and peppers have just begun to sprout.