March first is a good time to harvest lettuce in central Florida.
This year, 2019, the mild winter and the early, warm Spring has caused the lettuce to begin bolting early. “Bolting” means that the bushy style plant becomes a stalk with the same leaves on it. Lettuce gets bitter with warm weather, so keep an eye on it. As soon as you see that one plant is bolting or doesn’t seem to be as compact as it was, harvest it right away. See the longer red romaine in the back of the bowl? That guy was the first to bolt. He was a good indicator that the rest will soon bolt too. I just harvested all of my lettuce this past Saturday, February 23rd.
Before you harvest your lettuce, let it dry out-don’t water for a day or two before you plan on harvesting it. Bring a bowl or pot and a pair of kitchen shears to your lettuce patch. Cut the lettuce just below the bottom leaves. You do not need to pull it out of the ground. If it was a cool Spring, your lettuce would sprout new leaves. I don’t recommend that this year due to the unusually hot temperatures. Take off any outer leaves that are wilted, yellow, or spotted. Leave them there because they can be mixed into your soil, along with the roots you left in the ground, to prepare for the next veggie that will be planted there. That’s all there is to it. Easy!
Do not wash your lettuce now. Water can cause the leaves to mold or decay. Place the dry lettuce in a container that is designed for fresh vegetables. I have a large Tupperware Square that has ridges on the bottom. Another great choice (and I use both) is Debbie Myers bags. They work, despite the mixed reviews. You may be able to find them at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Fresh lettuce will keep for two months but you must open the container or bag once a week and inspect and remove any leaves that have started to decay.
This year’s lettuce harvest was small. I had planted a patch about 3 ft X 4 feet. And then forgot that I had planted it! Life gets busy sometimes! So, only about half came up. This bowl has about two-thirds of my total lettuce harvest this year. Fresh lettuce, straight from the garden is really flavorful. What I mean is, they will taste different from the lettuce you purchase from a store or fruit stand. My family says the lettuce is bitter compared to purchased lettuce. I disagree. I call it, heartier. So, grow some lettuce next year and see what your taste buds will approve.
Next Fall, I will share with you the specific varieties I have tried and have been successful in growing. Please don’t plant lettuce now, even if your local nursery or box store is selling it. It’s too warm and you will be disappointed. Wait till October. I promise I will give you plenty of time to purchase your seeds. No need to buy plants. Lettuce comes up quickly and appreciates not being transplanted. By the way, all of the varieties I have tried are very easy to save seed from. Isn’t that exciting? I love to save anything, seeds, money……
Until next time,