Hi, I’m Corey and I love using gardening as a way to provide food for my family, learn life lessons alongside my wife, Andrea, and teach life lessons to my two sons. That said, lettuce (other than iceberg lettuce) bruises easily and it’s best kept protected in a container. Do not store the lettuce in the same drawer or area as apples, pears, or tomatoes because these fruits release ethylene gas, which can cause your lettuce to spoil. Is it safe to eat bitter lettuce? If a lettuce plant does end up bolting, go ahead and pull it up. This is when your lettuce is the sweetest and, actually, it’s always the best time to pick it! It is also a mild sedative and hypnotic. Without a doubt, lettuce is a cool season crop. Most likely, your bitter lettuce is the result of the maturation process. Buy living lettuce. If you have picked some lettuce and you realize it is bitter, you don’t necessarily have to throw it out! REFERENCES: Besharat S, Besharat M, Jabbari A. Lettuce needs to grow fast. Lastly there is the Spanish name Achicoria Azul, which means Blue Chicory. and I will get back with you as soon as I can! Don’t let the bed become bone dry. Lettuce starts to "bolt" in hot conditions toward the end of the growing season. According to Jo Robinson, author of the 2013 book Eating on the Wild Side, bagged and boxed lettuce … While it’s definitely possible to grow lettuce in the middle of summer with the methods described, lettuce is still going to bolt eventually and at a quicker pace than it would in cooler temperatures. It begins producing seeds and acquires a bitter taste. Wash the lettuce and then store it in a plastic bag or container. Add an inch or two of compost to the top of your soil every fall to add back nutrients. Why does lettuce turn bitter… BMJ Case Rep. 2009;2009. pii: bcr06.2008.0134. Does your lettuce need to be protected from frost? Also, it can move on wheels so you can easily move it in and out of the shade and spin it so certain plants receive more sun than others! Unfortunately the plant has yellow blossoms, though sometimes white. • Head lettuce does not form head. In this edition, I will answer the following questions What is the advantage of starting seeds in cells instead of trays. This is especially important during a heat wave when plants need to be watered each day in the early morning or late evening. View abstract. We keep kosher, so wilting it with a bacon-y dressing is out. Sign up for our newsletter. Please feel free to Ask a Question (Click Here!) Soon, spring passed, summer heat arrived, and gardening websites like this one are inundated with questions: Why is my lettuce bitter? Stalk: Wild lettuce is thicker than prickly lettuce. Partial shade, especially during the warmest parts of the day, safeguards your lettuce crops and helps them from taking on a bitter flavor. Seeds should be sown 0.3–0.6 cm (1/8–1/4 in) deep and 2.5 cm (1 in) apart, leaving 50 cm (20 in) between rows. There some varieties of lettuce and other salad greens that you may find easier to grow during hot temperatures. I like to succession plant my lettuce so I always have a continuous crop. How do I know when to harvest my lettuce? Then we had a dry spell and I let it go a bit and then we had a wet spell and the sunflowers I planted behind the lettuce got so big and heavy they leaned over the lettuce and I could hardly reach it. Note: Although the biggest cause for bitter lettuce is temperature, along with the other possible reasons listed above, additional factors such as one’s region, current growing conditions and even variety can all play a role in the bitterness of lettuce plants. In this case, it's definitely whole heads FTW. Sometimes the lettuce turns bitter before obvious signs of bolting occur. So to prevent bitter lettuce, grow it in semi-shade or in the cooler months in hot climates. Too little water can also cause bitter lettuce. Lettuce will bolt and become bitter any time the plant feels like it is stressed. How can I store lettuce to last longer? As mentioned, lettuce is a cool weather crop, so it is naturally going to last longer in the spring and fall. Try mixing with other, milder lettuces to get used to the taste, picking the lettuce earlier while it is younger and the flavor is milder, using more dressing, adding tomatoes, sunflower seeds, Parmesan cheese, other stuff. This blog is where I share all my research and years of experimenting with you! There are three main types of lettuce: crisphead, butterhead and loose-leaf. Keep your soil covered with some type of mulch during the winter, such as shredded leaves, grass clippings, or wood chips. Mulch it well to keep it cool and moist, water regularly and give it a feed every now and then. Weekend Q&A. So, taking a hint from its relatives, I’ll go with the original and for a common term call it Bitter Lettuce. I often hear people say that lettuce can only be grown in the spring or fall because it would become bitter in the heat of the summer. The Causes of Bitter Lettuce Sap. Not finding what you are looking for? Every two to three weeks, we plant more lettuce from seed in a new container or spot in our garden. They have a nutrient-rich... Hi, I’m Corey and I love using gardening as a way to provide food for my family, learn life lessons alongside my wife, Andrea, and teach life lessons to my two sons. Mulch your lettuce to keep the roots cool and fool the plant into thinking its still spring. Some studies suggest that bitter lettuce can also be the result of too much nitrogen. When it’s problematic, it may be due to an intolerance, an allergy or an underlying medical condition. Mature lettuce gets bitter and woody and will go bad quickly, so check your garden everyday for ready-to-harvest leaves. Belgian endive They may even be healthier. You can tell your lettuce plants are preparing to bolt when milky white sap flows from the base of leaves as you harvest them. With these strong flavors- it was very edible. When the lettuce reaches your desired size, pluck the outer leaves to let the rest of the plant continue to grow or cut the entire plant off at the base. Interplant your lettuce with taller crops to provide shade as the weather warms. Now that we know what causes lettuce to bolt and become bitter, it’s fairly easy to see how we can prevent this and grow ourselves some very healthy lettuce. Most gardeners will tell you that bitter lettuce is the result of summer heat; lettuce is known as a cool season vegetable. I did a stovetop version incredibly bitter lettuce- not only over wintered, but lasting until May ( about 1/2 to 2/3rds lettuces) with bolting kale and chard (the other third.) You don’t want to let your lettuce reach full maturity before harvesting because the leaves get bitter. Lettuce can be stored in a plastic bag, a sealed glass or plastic container, or even a salad spinner. My Do Not Disturb method of gardening includes following nature by never disturbing the soil so plants can grow organically, the way God intended. Those large, flat leaves need a large amount of water to remain full and sweet. • Romaine lettuce does not form heart. Wild lettuce (Lactuca virosa) toxicity. Plant Accordingly. Instead of a generic looking and tasting salad, you can make something interesting to eat and look at. You can build some supports around your garden and use shade cloth to block some of the sun from the plants. Iceberg lettuce is super easy: Just toss it whole into a bag. Different levels of shade cloth exist that you can buy depending on how much sun you want to block. This site also participates in other affiliate programs, such as True Leaf Market, ShareASale, and Greenstalk Garden and is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies. No known toxins or issues are associated with eating bitter lettuce. If you have any doubt about a lettuce in your garden, taste the leaves. In contrast, leaf lettuce is a good source of beta carotene and a moderate source of fiber and carbohydrates. Place in a glass of filtered water for a few days in a window sill. You can also try refrigerating the bitter lettuce for 24-48 hours before serving. While we happily cook and eat bitter greens (broccoli rabe is a favorite), we don't generally go for it much in salads. By growing in containers, the lettuce can be moved into the shade when needed, like next to a house or shed. Here’s how to spot the difference: Height: Wild lettuce grows taller than prickly lettuce. It will continue to produce its leaves for multiple harvests as long as the plant is healthy and kept at cool temperatures. Raised garden beds have swayed many gardeners on their side for some apparent benefits. • Leaves of looseleaf varieties are small and bitter … Not only is it rewarding to pick your own fresh produce, but once picked, lettuce will continue to grow, giving you successive harvests of fresh greens. Leaf lettuce is characterized by leaves grown from the stem, rather than in tightly packed heads. It is unique from other grow towers with its efficient watering system. Sign up to get all the latest gardening tips! It's best planted in early spring, because once the heat hits its growth is stunted and the leaves turn bitter. Lettuce opium has been used as a topical antiseptic, as folk medicine to ameliorate a variety of conditions, and as a narcotic substitute or enhancer. Keep your lettuce in a cool place, out of the hot sun to prevent it from bolting quickly and becoming bitter. You can also choose varieties that are best suited to your climate. The main picture at the top of this post is my own example of this in my garden! The whole plant can become deformed. When picking lettuce, you’ll know it is bitter if there is a milky substance oozing out of the cut part of the lettuce. There are a few things you can do to delay bolting, most notably by keeping the soil around plants slightly moist at all times. Vegetable gardeners often talk about their plants "bolting," which simply means that the plant sends up a flower stalk and goes to seed. Are you familiar with Nutrient Density? Once the plant gets stressed, it goes into survival mode. When temperatures rise, the plant snaps into maturation mode and bolts — sends out a stalk and flowers. Layer the lettuce in between paper towels to help control moisture. Romaine lettuce grows in elongated heads. There is little evidence to support its use for any indication. “A person who is full refuses honey,    but even bitter food tastes sweet to the hungry.”. Water regularly and well. Leaf Lettuce is possibly the most popular type of salad green, enjoyed for its universally appealing taste and texture as well as its attractive appearance. Find and use it in recipes that call for cooked spinach or kale and it will turn out great! Another answer to why does lettuce turn bitter is nutrition. Without proper nutrients, growth becomes stunted and bitter tasting lettuce is the result. Iceberg lettuce contains the vital nutrients vitamin A and potassium along with trace amounts of fiber and protein. A relative of leaf lettuce, chicories are made up of hearty, bitter greens that stand up to rich dressings and can be used raw as well as cooked in braises, soups, pasta, and stir-frys. Bitter lettuce can also be cooked! If this is the case, try picking your lettuce right away in the early morning. Plant in rich soil up to base of core leaves. If you have a vacuum-packing machine, you can use it on a jar of iceberg lettuce to keep it fresh for up to two weeks. Trim off less lively leaves. This is a natural process that can’t be stopped, but it isn’t the only answer to what makes lettuce bitter. donotdisturbgardening.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Next, I’ll give you some tips on how I grow my own lettuce successfully all summer long – even when temperatures reach into the 80s and 90s. It would be easy to succession plant lettuce in these different pockets. If you don’t have a shady area, plant your lettuce around other taller plants that can provide shade, such as tomatoes or trellised crops. I topped it with Feta. Far from the shrink-wrapped iceberg lettuce we all know so wellperfectly round and crunchy, almost all water, and able to last a long time after harvestthe multitude of lettuce varieties available at the grocery store and farmers markets offer a wide range of textures, colors, and flavors. This is a method that I use the most for lettuce. You can actually grow lettuce all summer long and I have completed some research and experiments of my own with great success! Before you choose a heat tolerant lettuce, think about your garden plan. Others suggest that the bitter lettuce can be stored in high humidity and in the coldest spot in the refrigerator for a few days. Seed was planted too deep; place seed on seedbed and cover with ½ inch of soil. Some people have found that soaking the lettuce in water could remove some of the bitterness. While it may not taste that great, eating bitter lettuce will not cause harm in any way. Romaine lettuce typically lasts a week when vacuum sealed. Brown leaf edges are a sure sign that you lettuce is thirsty either from lack of water or root damage from close cultivation. John from http://www.growingyourgreens.com/ answers your questions including: Why is my lettuce bitter? Lettuce is usually thought to be an easy-to-digest food. I will be doing a full review of it at the end of the season. This could remove some of the bitterness. As time passes and the plant loses vigor, you may be better off planting a second round of seeds than waiting for new leaves. While it might look unappetizing, you can still eat it safely. This means less work for me and letting nature take the lead! Thin head lettuce to stand from 12 to 14 inches apart. If you would like to give this a try, separate the lettuce leaves, put them in a bowl of cold water and add a small amount of baking soda. Look for both green leaf and red leaf lettuce with tender, slightly ruffled leaves, which varies from medium to dark green to … Squash Is Bitter Tasting: Reasons For Bitter Squash Taste, Summer Crisp Lettuce Info – Selecting And Growing Summer Crisp Lettuce, Growing Lettuce In The Garden – How To Grow Lettuce Plants, Great Lakes In Winter – Gardening Around The Great Lakes Region, Indoor Hellebore Care – How To Grow A Hellebore Plant Indoors, Winter Pruning Guide – Learn About Cutting Back Plants In Winter, What A Female Flower And A Male Flower Look Like On A Squash Plant, Flower Groupings: Plants For Mass Planting In The Garden, Growing Hostas: How To Care For A Hosta Plant, Fresh-Cut Pine Tree Smell: Perfect Christmas Tree Memories, Norfolk Island Pine - The Perfect Christmas Tree, Winter Survival Guide: Creative Ways To Garden In Winter, Evergreen Favorite: Container Grown Olive Trees. Use “DNDG10OFF” at checkout! Some people have found it helpful to soak their bitter lettuce prior to using. By the time one batch of lettuce bolts, we have another batch that is in the middle of its maturity and one that is just sprouting. link to How Long Does it Take to Make Compost. Drain and use. With this infection, the interior leaves lose color and the outer leaves become stunted. Planting lettuce in full sun in the spring is an excellent idea. Soon the leaves become bitter and are no longer worth harvesting. You can keep this from happening by pinching off the center of the plant. Check out these comparison pictures of lactuca virosa (wild lettuce) vs. lactuca serriola (prickly lettuce). Usually sold as Organically, Hydroponically grown lettuce. Check out Our Favorite Products page to find everything you might need to help make your garden a success! This generally happens at the end of the plant’s life cycle or when the plant becomes too stressed. Sprouting Lettuce In Warm Weather. This site is owned and operated by Corey Leichty. Anybody have any suggestions for what to do with the very bitter baby Romaine lettuce I recently got from my CSA? Enjoy! This is a very straightforward and general answer but I have a lot of tips to follow and methods that I use in my own garden to have fresh lettuce all summer long! God created plants in a way that they will reproduce on their own by producing seeds. When picking lettuce, you’ll know it is bitter if there is a milky substance oozing out of the cut part of the lettuce. It says, “Uh oh, something isn’t right here and I need to put all my energy into producing seeds so I can thrive again next season!”. Each leaf has a substantial rib running along the center. Soon, spring passed, summer heat arrived, and gardening websites like this one are inundated with questions: Why is my lettuce bitter? Lettuce rust, formally known as russet spotting, can develop from exposure to ethylene gas. This does not work well with butter lettuce and other tender leaves. Fertilize regularly, but don’t get carried away. Preventing Bitter Lettuce. This isn’t true at all! Lettuce is a full-sun to partial shade plant. Succession planting will also help extend the season. How to use it: For lovers of bitter lettuce, this essential chicory is crisp and velvety when eaten raw. They thrive in cooler months, and some even winter over, because they’re so hearty. Below are some ideas you can try in your area! In order to keep lettuce cool, try growing it in a spot that gets some shade – preferably in the afternoon when the heat is more intense. In case you aren’t familiar with the term “bolting”, it is when a plant grows quickly, stops flowering, and produces seeds. Vacuum seal crisp lettuce in a glass jar. With its refreshingly light taste, lettuce (Lactuca) can become bitter-tasting if it is exposed to certain growing conditions. It is grown as a cool-weather vegetable, thriving when the temperature stays between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. As I already mentioned, keep your soil covered with mulch!  This will block the sun, keep the roots of your plants cool, reduce evaporation and retain more moisture in your soil. I just recently purchased this grow tower and will be using it this year! I went heavy on the onions and garlic and finished it with salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar. English but it really isn’t a lettuce and there are several wild lettuce already. What makes lettuce turn bitter? In warmer temperatures, imbibing or soaking the seeds in water for at least 16 hours before planting in a well … Clip off outer leaves and use. Younger lettuce plants will have the best taste. Plant should last through many cuttings… This Greenstalk Vertical Garden would make a really awesome salad garden/tower! It’s important to monitor the moisture level of your soil and water your plants only when necessary. So how do you avoid growing bitter tasting lettuce in your garden? First, let’s learn some causes of lettuce bolting and becoming bitter and then we will learn some ways to prevent it. Nothing tastes better than crisp lettuce straight from the garden. Head lettuce was developed to remove the bitter taste from lettuce, but in doing so the lettuce lost most of its flavor and nutritiousness. You waited until the last spring frost and quickly sowed the seeds for your lettuce bed. Is there any help for bitter tasting lettuce? Plants are crowded. link to How Long Does a Raised Garden Bed Last? Leaves: This is the best way to tell the difference between the plants. I speak not as a lettuce grower, but as someone who has been served many many many home grown lettuce salads. Growing your own lettuce is a beautiful thing. Within weeks, the head lettuce was ready to be thinned and the loose leaf varieties were ready for their first gentle harvesting. Never remove more than one third of the leaves of a lettuce plant at one time. It’s best to harvest lettuce in the morning before leaves have been exposed to sun. My lettuce went bitter in early July (I’m in Virginia) and I kept eating it. Let the leaves soak about five to 10 minutes, rinse thoroughly in cold water and then soak them again for a few more minutes. Within weeks, the head lettuce was ready to be thinned and the loose leaf varieties were ready for their first gentle harvesting. You waited until the last spring frost and quickly sowed the seeds for your lettuce bed. This could remove some of the bitterness. Why does lettuce turn bitter? Do you have gardening questions? Nothing tastes better than crisp lettuce straight from the garden. Other than the visual appeal, raised gardens will benefit from better quality soil, reduced interference of... Compost is the key ingredient behind every successful garden. Lastly, aster yellows phytoplasma, commonly called aster yellows, is a disease that can cause bitter lettuce. Sowing seeds Lettuce seeds can be sown directly in the garden or field as soon as the soil can be worked as the seeds will germinate at temperatures of 4.4°C (40°F) and above and seedlings will tolerate a light frost. Others suggest that the bitter lettuce can be stored in high humidity and in the coldest spot in the refrigerator for a few days. But what happens when temperatures dip toward the freezing mark? Wild lettuce has leaves which aren’t as divided and spread out more. If you think nitrogen might be the cause of your bitter tasting lettuce, add a small amount of wood ash to your soil. Leave the core leaves intact. Find more gardening information on Gardening Know How: Keep up to date with all that's happening in and around the garden. There’s no way you can completely stop Mother Nature, but there are ways you can delay the result. If you would like to purchase this and learn along with us, you can use this affiliate link or our coupon code to receive $10 off your purchase! Those vibrant plants laden with juicy red tomatoes, peppers, and lemons won’t come out of bland soil. Remove a few leaves from each plant by picking the leaves off at the base. Your lettuce should be ready for harvest anywhere from one to two months after planting. Here are some common reasons that cause your lettuce to bolt and become bitter: Understanding the causes of lettuce becoming bitter will help you to prevent it from happening altogether. Crisphead lettuces-such as iceberg and romaine-grow in very tightly clasped round heads. Lettuce can be harvested at any time as loose leafed, cut and come again lettuce. As a gardener of 10+ years, I have done my share of research. It can be a stand-alone salad green, or mixed with other chicories or sweet lettuces. 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Letting Nature take the lead best time to pick it week when vacuum sealed plastic or! Feel free to Ask a Question ( Click Here! into thinking its still spring maturation.! 70 degrees Fahrenheit levels of shade cloth exist that you can also try refrigerating the bitter lettuce, know... Can completely stop Mother Nature, but there are several wild lettuce ) vs. lactuca serriola ( lettuce! As a gardener of 10+ years, I have completed some research and experiments of own. Important during a heat tolerant lettuce, add a small amount of wood to. Plastic container, or even a salad spinner is when your lettuce reach full maturity before harvesting the... It in semi-shade or in the early morning can still eat it safely cause harm any... To get all the latest gardening tips clasped round heads heat ; lettuce is a good source beta.