Sweeter lettuce?

keepingstillMay 18, 2009


How I'd love to have really sweet lettuce, like I get in our local store. I've tried growing different kinds of lettuce for about four years and every time they taste kind of bitter or sour. Never sweet. I've tried adding lime, compost, more water, shade cloth for various kinds (Red, curly, romaine, simpson's, etc.) with absolutely no change. Might there be some nutrient that I'm missing that's keeping my lettuce from being sweet? Any other ideas? The last tip I got was to pick in the a.m. and put the leaves in the fridge. So far, no luck. :-(

Grateful for help!



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You gotta get them growing as soon as the conditions will allow. This means sowing seed on frozen soil if you wish. It will germinate as soon as it can this way.

Then you need to water it heavily (assuming you have a free draining soil) and also feed it heavily to get it growing as fast as possible. Slow growing lettuce = yuck.

Water soluble synthetics are a good choice because soils will be very cool and organic matter doesn't break down and release nutrients well in cool soils. Also, N in the form of urea will also have trouble converting to nitrate in the cool soil.

Think of it like a race. The faster you can grow it to harvest size, the better it will taste.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 3:57PM
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Lettuce gets bitter when it gets warm outside. Plant as early in the spring as possible to get the best crop. Also try some more varieties. I have had really good luck wih tennis ball in the late spring when weather is starting to get too warm for other varieties.

I am zone 5 and planted mine about 1 month ago. Its just starting to get harvestabe size and our ave temp is still hovering around 65-68 during the day. Much warmer and the lettuce will get bitter quickly.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 4:16PM
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diggity_ma(5 MA)

I think it partly depends on what you're comparing it to. A lot of lettuce is grown hydroponically these days, and in my opinion it is flavorless and insipid. On the other hand, home-grown lettuce can certainly get bitter and I've had my share of spitters. I guess what I'm saying is that maybe you might want to re-think what you're getting from your garden. I've heard that many Europeans laugh at the American aversion to bitter greens. Bitter is definitely an acquired taste, but once you get used to it, it's quite pleasant (in moderation of course). Bitter greens tend to be healthier for you too. I just mean that I'd hate to see you condemn any and all lettuce that has a hint of bitterness to it.


    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 9:33PM
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Have you ever tried a sweet mesclun mix? I think what I have is from Burpee, I got it at WalMart last year. I don't know what's in it but we ate some really good greens last year.

Might be worth a try.

This may sound weird to many, but have you ever tried putting sugar on lettuce? That's how I always ate it when I was young. It won't solve your problem but may make it more edible for you.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tales of a Transplanted Gardener

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 1:59AM
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My DH's family always soaked their leaf lettuce in a large bowl of ice cold water for awhile before serving.

I usually do that, too, and if the lettuce is too bitter I sometimes put a few tablespoons of sugar into the water. It seems to help a bit.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 3:40AM
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Yes, plant early. And because you are in zone 8b, plant them in September for winter consumption. I plant the Territorial winter mix in September, it overwinters under cover, and I get to eat lettuce in April. You may want to try a winter mix also. In my experience, lettuce is sweetest when grown in leaf mold with a bit of manure mixed in for quick decomposition.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 10:16AM
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wayne_perrier(z9 CA)

I haven't had to plant early but I agree that watering them heavily, grow them fast, no stress on the plant, has given me sweet lettuce.


    Bookmark   May 24, 2009 at 1:42AM
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