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!
Lettuce 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.
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 Organic 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