Got some lettuce that needs to come up but not sure how is best to do it? Then this quick guide is the one for you!
Headed or Loose Leaf?
This is the major question that will affect how you harvest your lettuce, is it head-forming lettuce like an iceberg or is it loose leaf like Lollo Rosso?
Headed lettuces form a head in the middle, just like those round iceberg lettuces you get from the supermarket. They are slower growing than loose leaf lettuce and are a one-and-done type of harvest.
You take the entire plant up and then that is it, that lettuce is done. With loose leaf lettuce though you take a few leaves off at a time and then leave the plant to grow back. This type of lettuce is commonly called pick and come again.
When harvesting headed lettuce you take the entire plant up.
The Little gem lettuce I will be harvesting today, little gem is a small gem lettuce that is quick growing, it is a variety that I love to grow because of how quick it is from seed to harvest.
Step 1 – Get Your Hand Around The Base
To start with take a really firm grip of the lettuce right down at the base.
Step 2 – Twist & Lift
Twist and lift the plant out of the ground at the same time, we want to try and bring some of the root structure with us as that will be important later.
Step 3 – Shake Off The Soil
Now shake and pull off all of that loose soil and put it back into the bed. We put a lot of effort into improving our soil, we don’t want to take it with us!
Step 4 – Wash
Now give the lettuce a good wash, I wash it off under a tap before submerging it in water in the kitchen sink.
The submerging brings any bugs and slugs that were hiding in the lettuce to the surface, and trust me there will be some. Insects and slugs love hiding in the leaves of headed lettuce so you need to flush them out.
Here we can see an earwig that was in the lettuce, the water has forced it to the surface so we can pick it up and pop it outside. While they look a bit scary with their pincers earwigs are harmless and actually feed on aphids in the garden, but they do also eat plants.
Step 5 – Store
This is where leaving plenty of root on your lettuce comes in. I store my lettuce on the kitchen windowsill in vases with water in. This keeps the plants pretty much alive, so they stay much fresher for longer!
This lettuce is starting to look a little tired and droopy but has been here over a week, so looks great to say it was harvested that long ago.
Loose Leaf Lettuce
This type of lettuce is even easier to harvest than headed lettuce. Just simply take a few leaves off at a time, working your way from the outer leaves in. Leave a few leaves on the plant to help it grow back, and then do the same thing all over again in a few weeks’ time.
Lolla Bionda is one of the loose leaf lettuces I grow, it looks just like the more popular lolla rossa which I also grow but is green rather than red.
You can begin harvesting loose leaf lettuce as soon as there are a few large leaves. I like to start early and just take one or two leaves. This stops the plant from growing too large and instead gets it acclimatised to constantly losing leaves.
Step 1 – Pull Off Outer Leaves
You can pull the outer leaves off with your hands or snip them with some scissors.
Step 2 – Leave Some Plant Behind
You want to leave some of the plant behind to help it grow back, the younger the plant the more you should leave.
Step 4 – Wash
Wash the lettuce under a tap. This is a lot easier than headed lettuce as there is no place for slugs or bugs to be hiding with loose leaf lettuce.