To Pluck or to Cut? How to Pick Lettuce

To Pluck or to Cut? How to Harvest Lettuce


A common question / debate among our gardeners is the proper way to harvest our vegetables, herbs, fruits and other bounty during harvest season.  Now that Harvest is upon us we’ll crank out some blog posts to help us all along our harvesting way! To begin, “lettuce” begin with lettuce!

Butterhead Optima LettuceLettuce is probably one of the most popular vegetables grown by gardeners today, mainly because it is so relatively easy to grow. It also grows quickly and can be grown in most areas at least 3 seasons out of the year. Before you harvest your lettuce, be sure its ready – most varieties take between 30 and 60 days to mature.  Be sure to follow the specific instructions on your seed packet.  For instance a variety of Organic Spring Mix Lettuce Seeds is usually ready after about 35 days, however Organic Butterhead Optima Lettuce takes closer to 50 or 60 days.

Once your lettuce has matured you are ready for harvest.  We recommend that you harvest your lettuce early in the morning – that way the leaves or heads will still be nice and crisp.  You’ll notice that throughout a warm summer day lettuce will begin to wilt, but after some watering and a nice cool night they are typically standing straight up in the early morning hours.

There are 3 ways that you can pick your lettuce and all of them are perfectly fine methods for collecting your greens. The first way is to pull the plant directly out of the ground and to snap off the bottom inch of the plant.  You can compost the bottom part with the roots and then you are left with crisp  delicious leaves on top. The only negative to this method is that the plant will not get a chance to generate more greens.  Most lettuce will continue to produce greens even while you harvest it, so if you want MORE LETTUCE, I suggest using one of the next 2 methods.Cutting Lettuce Leaf

If you are growing a head lettuce variety like like the Organic Butterhead Optima Lettuce or the Romaine Lettuce then it is usually best to use a knife or sharp shears to cut the entire head of lettuce off at once.  Go to the base of the lettuce plant and cut it off about 1 inch above the soil – this way you have a head of lettuce to use in the kitchen and the plant remains in the ground to grow a second head.  The second head will typically be much smaller than the first, however it delivers a little quicker than starting from seed all over again.

The last method is to pick or cut off individual leaves on Leaf Lettuce varieties like Organic Spring Mix Lettuce or OrCutting Lettuceganic Outredgeous Red Lettuce. These types of lettuce you can cut off the individual leaves about 1 inch up from the stalk for tasty lettuce for your salad, but leave the plant whole so that it continued to propagate more lettuce. Be sure to pick from the outside leaves in, as these are the oldest and it allows the inner leaves to develop more.

Any of these that you decide to cut or pick or pluck your lettuce will work, just be sure to only pick as much as you are going to use in the next day or two.  Fresh cut lettuce tastes the best and you can always go back to the plant for more. If you have leftover lettuce it is best stored in a sealed plastic bag in the crisper bin of your refrigerator – depending on the variety it should stay fresh for up to a week. Just remember to harvest your lettuce often once it is mature, because it can get bitter if you leave it in the ground for too long.  If you go to cut / pick your lettuce and you see a milky white substance, then you’ve let the lettuce go for too long and it will most likely have a bitter taste.

Hope this helps with the Harvest and please leave responses below if you have questions!


The Solly Family


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23 Responses to To Pluck or to Cut? How to Pick Lettuce

  1. Kate 2013-05-31 at 2:07 PM #

    Thank you – this is just what I was looking for! Great pictures, too!

  2. Julie Semroc 2013-06-13 at 6:13 AM #

    Very helpful information, thank you!

  3. Kathleen 2013-06-14 at 3:00 PM #

    Thank you! The pictures were super helpful!

  4. Ila 2013-06-15 at 5:19 AM #

    Thank you, the information was easy and very helpful. This was my first time planting lettuce and was unsure of how to harvest. Pictures are great!

  5. Rossanne 2013-06-18 at 5:54 AM #

    That is exactly what I was looking for. Have never grown lettuce before & had no idea how I should harvest & just knew there was a beter way than just pulling the whole head up. At the cost of $1.69 per plant then that wouldn’t be cost effective. Your article was perfect & thanks for the pics showing what you meant.

  6. Rosanne 2013-07-04 at 6:06 AM #

    Perfect! Just what I needed to know. Thank you.

  7. Jennie T. 2013-07-08 at 7:47 AM #

    Luv your site and the lettuce info! I didnt’ think to harvest in the a.m. However, using a large metal mixing bowl filled with water and just a few ice cubes “crispyed” things up just fine.

  8. Michele 2013-07-21 at 3:40 PM #

    Your article was very comprehensive and provided JUST the information I was seeking. Thank you so much for having taken the time to help a fellow (though novice) gardener!

  9. Sally 2013-10-30 at 11:56 AM #

    Thanks so much! Clear and easy to understand — just what I was looking for. I’m new to gardening and have a nice fall crop of lettuce growing, but only a vague idea of how to harvest. Now I know!

  10. Lexi Lewis 2013-12-03 at 6:56 PM #

    Yummy I can’t wait to harvest my lettuce now thanks to your good info !
    Thank you,

  11. angela 2014-05-17 at 5:22 PM #

    Thanks alot.great help me tremendously.

  12. rashika 2014-06-20 at 11:13 PM #

    thnx it was really helpful 4 my task

  13. Rob Toomey 2014-06-28 at 11:55 PM #

    Thanks for the info. First time gardener. Perfect answer to my question. Thx

  14. rosemary 2014-07-09 at 7:47 PM #

    my lettuce grew over 2 feet tall I know now I needed to cut it I hope it is not to late after I cut them do you think some will grow back and not be bitter

  15. Kim 2014-07-13 at 10:38 AM #

    Thanks for sharing, I knew that my lettuce had been planted long enough to harvest, as I had started them indoors then transplanted outdoors, but kept thinking they should be larger first. Well now I know why they had the white-milky liquid and were bitter after picking!!!

  16. Amber 2014-08-09 at 10:38 AM #

    First year doing a garden. I knows lettuce and kale are finished and I’ve picked what I can get from them. Do I just leave them be or pull them out from the root and replant new in the spring?

  17. Jonathan 2014-08-16 at 5:26 AM #

    Thank you for the helpful article 🙂

  18. Carmen Christensen 2015-02-16 at 7:52 AM #

    If seeding or milky substance can it be trimmed down and regrown?
    I Let it grow to long.

  19. Melissa Penman 2015-04-10 at 7:06 AM #

    Great info.thanks.just what I needed to know

  20. Debbie 2015-05-13 at 12:48 PM #

    Thanks so much, nice to see your good information just keeps on going to new people that need help!

  21. Annette Thomson 2015-05-19 at 1:24 PM #

    That was very helpful thank you

  22. Annette Thomson 2015-05-19 at 1:25 PM #

    very helpful thank you

  23. Karen 2015-05-27 at 5:23 PM #

    Thanks! Just what this first time gardener needed to know!

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