Your local lettuce can come in many different shapes, colors, and flavors. Lettuce can be crunchy, buttery, or crisp. You may find local lettuce to be peppery, mild, bitter, sweet, or earthy.
Lettuce doesn’t keep well, and is best fresh. Buying local lettuce means you get the freshest options, and can avoid plastic containers that the stores pack it in.
Some cultures cook lettuce but we usually eat it fresh. Lettuce doesn’t store well, so buying it regularly and eating it quickly is best.
Finding Local Lettuce
Lettuce is a cool season crop, and grows easily in spring and fall. The heat makes it bolt, which means it grows a seed stalk and the flavor becomes bitter.
Lettuce is so easy to grow that it is often grown indoors and in greenhouses, so you may see it all year long at the farmers markets. You can grow heat tolerant varieties under shade in summer, or grow lettuce under lights in winter.
The cheapest local lettuce will probably be available in spring and fall because it doesn’t need extra care. You can grow it yourself in small containers on your deck or indoors, as it doesn’t take long to grow and you can start harvesting leafy varieties quickly.
Lettuce likes to grow in 60 or 65 degree temperatures. Plan to shade it when temperatures get up too high. A month after sowing you could be eating early leaves from your lettuce or wait two months for the whole head.
Some varieties can mature faster. Depending on how long you want to wait, you can choose a faster maturing variety or grow leaf over head types so you can enjoy your lettuce before it bolts.
To keep your lettuce growing longer, choose butterhead or looseleaf varieties for heat tolerance. Grow plants in containers and you can move them to cooler, shadier locations as summer comes on.
Sow lettuce frequently to ensure you continue to have a crop, or grow summer greens for your salads.
Types of Local Lettuce
You may find local lettuce types like looseleaf, butterhead, crisphead, or romaine. Looseleaf is like a rosette and has loose leaves that may or may not be sold as a head. Butterhead is also a bit loose. Romaine has long leaves with a thick rib. Iceberg lettuce is a crisphead.
There are many other types of lettuce out there. You may find arugula, endive, radicchio, and many Asian greens. They may not be strictly lettuce but have a similar flavor and characteristics.
Since lettuce grows so easily indoors or outside in cool temperatures, you’ll find many varieties at your farmers markets. Buy different types and figure out which is your favorite.
Preserving Local Lettuce
Lettuce is one of the few vegetables that really doesn’t store well. You can keep it a few weeks in the fridge, but canning, drying, or freezing it won’t do much for you.
Most lettuce is eaten fresh, and to keep yourself in fresh lettuce the best solution is to grow or buy it regularly. If you have recipes that use cooked lettuce, you might try freezing some for later.
To keep your lettuce fresh, keep it in the fridge. Head lettuces last longer. With proper care, they could last 1-3 weeks.
Wash your lettuce when it comes home, dry it well, then wrap in a damp towel and place in a plastic or glass container in the fridge. Lettuce wants some airflow and moisture but not too much.
If your lettuce wilts, try freshening it up in ice water for a few minutes.
Local Lettuce Recipes
Fresh lettuce can be used as Lettuce Wraps, or in place of a tortilla for low carb meals.
Different local lettuce types can offer new textures or flavors in your salad. I love a salad with lots of types of in season vegetables, plus lettuce that has been cut into bite sized pieces so it is easier to eat.
Making your own salad dressings is key in enjoying salads regularly. I like spicy, but you can find any flavor profile out there. Vinaigrettes are easy to make, and can incorporate some homemade jams or vinegars as well.
Local Lettuce Trivia
Lettuce is a very popular vegetable in the States. Seventy percent of our US grown lettuce comes from California, and 75% of it is iceberg.
Lettuce has been around with us for a long time. Lettuce started out as a weed in the Mediterranean and has been eaten for at least 4500 years.
With all the varieties out there, it is a great idea to try some new ones. Try growing your own, since they are really easy to grow in small spaces. Try different varieties at the market. Make your own dressing and start eating salads regularly!