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. 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! They thrive in cooler months, and some even winter over, because they’re so hearty. Every two to three weeks, we plant more lettuce from seed in a new container or spot in our garden. You can also choose varieties that are best suited to your climate. Without a doubt, lettuce is a cool season crop. Mature lettuce gets bitter and woody and will go bad quickly, so check your garden everyday for ready-to-harvest leaves. Preventing Bitter Lettuce. Sign up for our newsletter. It's best planted in early spring, because once the heat hits its growth is stunted and the leaves turn bitter. Keep your lettuce in a cool place, out of the hot sun to prevent it from bolting quickly and becoming bitter. I topped it with Feta. While we happily cook and eat bitter greens (broccoli rabe is a favorite), we don't generally go for it much in salads. Stalk: Wild lettuce is thicker than prickly lettuce. Too little water can also cause bitter lettuce. This blog is where I share all my research and years of experimenting with you! 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. 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! While it may not taste that great, eating bitter lettuce will not cause harm in any way. Not finding what you are looking for? 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. Find and use it in recipes that call for cooked spinach or kale and it will turn out great! View abstract. This could remove some of the bitterness. Those vibrant plants laden with juicy red tomatoes, peppers, and lemons won’t come out of bland soil. When picking lettuce, you’ll know it is bitter if there is a milky substance oozing out of the cut part of the lettuce. If this is the case, try picking your lettuce right away in the early morning. Belgian endive Plant Accordingly. Thin head lettuce to stand from 12 to 14 inches apart. Iceberg lettuce contains the vital nutrients vitamin A and potassium along with trace amounts of fiber and protein. link to How Long Does it Take to Make Compost. Trim off less lively leaves. You waited until the last spring frost and quickly sowed the seeds for your lettuce bed. Lettuce starts to "bolt" in hot conditions toward the end of the growing season. No known toxins or issues are associated with eating bitter lettuce. This does not work well with butter lettuce and other tender leaves. “A person who is full refuses honey,    but even bitter food tastes sweet to the hungry.”. Some studies suggest that bitter lettuce can also be the result of too much nitrogen. I will be doing a full review of it at the end of the season. 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. Enjoy! Does your lettuce need to be protected from frost? Nothing tastes better than crisp lettuce straight from the garden. Another answer to why does lettuce turn bitter is nutrition. Why does lettuce turn bitter? 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. Weekend Q&A. Most likely, your bitter lettuce is the result of the maturation process. Plant should last through many cuttings… There is little evidence to support its use for any indication. Here’s how to spot the difference: Height: Wild lettuce grows taller than prickly lettuce. John from http://www.growingyourgreens.com/ answers your questions including: Why is my lettuce bitter? 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. Romaine lettuce grows in elongated heads. Keep your soil covered with some type of mulch during the winter, such as shredded leaves, grass clippings, or wood chips. 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. Fertilize regularly, but don’t get carried away. Your lettuce should be ready for harvest anywhere from one to two months after planting. My lettuce went bitter in early July (I’m in Virginia) and I kept eating it. Water regularly and well. There are a few things you can do to delay bolting, most notably by keeping the soil around plants slightly moist at all times. Sign up to get all the latest gardening tips! As time passes and the plant loses vigor, you may be better off planting a second round of seeds than waiting for new leaves. Plant in rich soil up to base of core leaves. Plants are crowded. Never remove more than one third of the leaves of a lettuce plant at one time. You don’t want to let your lettuce reach full maturity before harvesting because the leaves get bitter. Is it safe to eat bitter lettuce? You can actually grow lettuce all summer long and I have completed some research and experiments of my own with great success! 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. You waited until the last spring frost and quickly sowed the seeds for your lettuce bed. Vegetable gardeners often talk about their plants "bolting," which simply means that the plant sends up a flower stalk and goes to seed. Anybody have any suggestions for what to do with the very bitter baby Romaine lettuce I recently got from my CSA? 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. Each leaf has a substantial rib running along the center. I like to succession plant my lettuce so I always have a continuous crop. Bitter lettuce can also be cooked! 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. It is grown as a cool-weather vegetable, thriving when the temperature stays between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This isn’t true at all! 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. REFERENCES: Besharat S, Besharat M, Jabbari A. Lettuce will bolt and become bitter any time the plant feels like it is stressed. Buy living lettuce. Soon, spring passed, summer heat arrived, and gardening websites like this one are inundated with questions: Why is my lettuce bitter? You can tell your lettuce plants are preparing to bolt when milky white sap flows from the base of leaves as you harvest them. Wash the lettuce and then store it in a plastic bag or container. Leave the core leaves intact. This site is owned and operated by Corey Leichty. Soon, spring passed, summer heat arrived, and gardening websites like this one are inundated with questions: Why is my lettuce bitter? Do you have gardening questions? By growing in containers, the lettuce can be moved into the shade when needed, like next to a house or shed. Those large, flat leaves need a large amount of water to remain full and sweet. Unfortunately the plant has yellow blossoms, though sometimes white. It’s important to monitor the moisture level of your soil and water your plants only when necessary. Romaine lettuce typically lasts a week when vacuum sealed. Before you choose a heat tolerant lettuce, think about your garden plan. You can also try refrigerating the bitter lettuce for 24-48 hours before serving. Interplant your lettuce with taller crops to provide shade as the weather warms. If you have any doubt about a lettuce in your garden, taste the leaves. There’s no way you can completely stop Mother Nature, but there are ways you can delay the result. Some people have found that soaking the lettuce in water could remove some of the bitterness. • Head lettuce does not form head. Iceberg lettuce is super easy: Just toss it whole into a bag. They may even be healthier. Lettuce needs to grow fast. 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. With its refreshingly light taste, lettuce (Lactuca) can become bitter-tasting if it is exposed to certain growing conditions. Seed was planted too deep; place seed on seedbed and cover with ½ inch of soil. Once the plant gets stressed, it goes into survival mode. Most gardeners will tell you that bitter lettuce is the result of summer heat; lettuce is known as a cool season vegetable. Don’t let the bed become bone dry. The whole plant can become deformed. It’s best to harvest lettuce in the morning before leaves have been exposed to sun. Raised garden beds have swayed many gardeners on their side for some apparent benefits. Growing your own lettuce is a beautiful thing. Planting lettuce in full sun in the spring is an excellent idea. This is a natural process that can’t be stopped, but it isn’t the only answer to what makes lettuce bitter. Use “DNDG10OFF” at checkout! Lettuce can be harvested at any time as loose leafed, cut and come again lettuce. If a lettuce plant does end up bolting, go ahead and pull it up. Different levels of shade cloth exist that you can buy depending on how much sun you want to block. I went heavy on the onions and garlic and finished it with salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar. First, let’s learn some causes of lettuce bolting and becoming bitter and then we will learn some ways to prevent it. Leaves: This is the best way to tell the difference between the plants. 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. The Causes of Bitter Lettuce Sap. In contrast, leaf lettuce is a good source of beta carotene and a moderate source of fiber and carbohydrates. Why does lettuce turn bitter… Lettuce is a full-sun to partial shade plant. Find more gardening information on Gardening Know How: Keep up to date with all that's happening in and around the garden. 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. Check out these comparison pictures of lactuca virosa (wild lettuce) vs. lactuca serriola (prickly lettuce). Lettuce is usually thought to be an easy-to-digest food. 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. Layer the lettuce in between paper towels to help control moisture. It can be a stand-alone salad green, or mixed with other chicories or sweet lettuces. There are three main types of lettuce: crisphead, butterhead and loose-leaf. 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. In this case, it's definitely whole heads FTW. I just recently purchased this grow tower and will be using it this year! In warmer temperatures, imbibing or soaking the seeds in water for at least 16 hours before planting in a well … Sometimes the lettuce turns bitter before obvious signs of bolting occur. Look for both green leaf and red leaf lettuce with tender, slightly ruffled leaves, which varies from medium to dark green to … 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. Crisphead lettuces-such as iceberg and romaine-grow in very tightly clasped round heads. But what happens when temperatures dip toward the freezing mark? Wild lettuce has leaves which aren’t as divided and spread out more. Younger lettuce plants will have the best taste. It will continue to produce its leaves for multiple harvests as long as the plant is healthy and kept at cool temperatures. The main picture at the top of this post is my own example of this in my garden! Vacuum seal crisp lettuce in a glass jar. 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. Clip off outer leaves and use. 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. So how do you avoid growing bitter tasting lettuce in your garden? 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.) It is also a mild sedative and hypnotic. How to use it: For lovers of bitter lettuce, this essential chicory is crisp and velvety when eaten raw. While it might look unappetizing, you can still eat it safely. That said, lettuce (other than iceberg lettuce) bruises easily and it’s best kept protected in a container. Lastly there is the Spanish name Achicoria Azul, which means Blue Chicory. link to How Long Does a Raised Garden Bed Last? So, taking a hint from its relatives, I’ll go with the original and for a common term call it Bitter Lettuce. Some people have found it helpful to soak their bitter lettuce prior to using. According to Jo Robinson, author of the 2013 book Eating on the Wild Side, bagged and boxed lettuce … Add an inch or two of compost to the top of your soil every fall to add back nutrients. This is especially important during a heat wave when plants need to be watered each day in the early morning or late evening. Lastly, aster yellows phytoplasma, commonly called aster yellows, is a disease that can cause bitter lettuce. Within weeks, the head lettuce was ready to be thinned and the loose leaf varieties were ready for their first gentle harvesting. What makes lettuce turn bitter? 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. Drain and use. Place in a glass of filtered water for a few days in a window sill. Succession planting will also help extend the season. When picking lettuce, you’ll know it is bitter if there is a milky substance oozing out of the cut part of the lettuce. 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. As mentioned, lettuce is a cool weather crop, so it is naturally going to last longer in the spring and fall. Leaf lettuce is characterized by leaves grown from the stem, rather than in tightly packed heads. This generally happens at the end of the plant’s life cycle or when the plant becomes too stressed. When it’s problematic, it may be due to an intolerance, an allergy or an underlying medical condition. If you think nitrogen might be the cause of your bitter tasting lettuce, add a small amount of wood ash to your soil. With cooler morning sun and then store it in recipes that call for cooked spinach or kale and it continue! 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