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.