Friday, 1 July 2011

Lettuces and Endives

Now that the weather has turned a bit warmer, and we have had some rain, my lettuces have decided that it is time to bolt, so we are trying to use lots of them before they become unusable (bolted lettuces are very bitter and stringy).

My first batch of lettuce, planted out on 4th April, consisted of 6 each of Little Gem, Fristina and Webbs Wonderful.

They have all done well, but the star of the show has been "Little Gem" - a smallish Cos / Romaine type.

Little Gem
This one is "Fristina", a lettuce that thinks it is an endive. It has crunchy ribs, but frizzy leaves. I treat it as a cut-and-come-again lettuce, picking individual leaves whenever required rather than cutting the whole lettuce in one go.

The Webbs Wonderful has been the slowest to develop. It is a huge lettuce and I don't think I gave mine enough room. Now that some of the other lettuces have been harvested, the Webbs ones will have room to develop better.They should eventually produce a densely-packed heart like "Iceberg".

I also planted a few "Delicato", a red oak-leaf variety . I tucked these in at the ends of my rows of climbing beans. The young leaves in the centres are really attractive - a deep burgundy red - but as they get older they fade to a sort of bronze colour. This lettuce has a good texture too, especially in the leaf-ribs.

In various nooks and crannies throughout my garden there are lettuces in ones and twos. This one is "Marvel of Four Seasons" - red-tinged and very crinkly.

I'm not sure what variety this one is. It is from a mixed pack. I like it though. Very attractive in a mixed salad.

Alongside the lettuces I also have some endives. I love endives even more than lettuces. They have an intriguing slightly bitter taste (though this can be reduced by blanching if you prefer). This year, I have been very short of space for growing salad crops, and I have had to squeeze them in in all sorts of odd places, like underneath the Broad Beans.

I find that endives are very sensitive to soil and weather conditions, and they bolt at the slightest excuse - like these ones! If you leave them they will grow to about four feet tall, and will produce a profusion of small blue flowers. They would actually look good in a "potager".

But this is what they are supposed to look like - short and compact. These ones are of the variety "Très Fine Maraîchère", a French variety given to me by my daughter Fiona (who lives in France).

And here's the next batch, awaiting planting out (Lettuces on the Left, Endives on the Right). In my garden the "Dead Man's Shoes" principle operates. As soon as a plant is finished, another one goes in straight away.

And this of course, is what we're aiming for... the heart of a good salad.

Finally, let me finish with one of my arty photos... Early morning sunshine on an endive leaf.


  1. Mark, all your lettuce is just stunning! You are a great photographer on top of being a great gardener.

    I like how you scatter individual plants wherever you can find room in the garden, but that first picture of three neat rows of new lettuce seedlings definitely appeals to my inner OCD side. :) This is only my second year gardening and so far I've only direct sowed lettuce seeds in my garden. It typically results in plants growing too close together. I would really like to try this seedling-transplant method this fall, although it would require me to be much more organized with seed starting.

  2. I love a nice mix of lettuces - they look really attractive too - most important for you when you are growing in your garden.

  3. Great selection of lettuce there, always wish I'd planted more varieties when I read your blog! I treat all mine as cut and come again, and take the leaves young which seems to be working well so far.

  4. I am green of envy for your greens!!! you have a great variety of lettuces, omg those are my favourite, the reason I have a garden was lettuce1 BUt the heat of California made them bolt, I can only grow them from Nov to April!

  5. What a great variety. I only grow lettuce in Winter here and they still bolt if we have a few warm days.

  6. Lots of lovely luscious lettuce.

  7. So many lovely lettuces! I miss my lettuce...we had our last one a few days ago.

  8. Lettuces are such an attractive plant with all their variations of color, leaf shape, and texture (buttery soft to crisp). I have a few blends I really love and tend to stick to them and a few romaines - but I always admire the different varieties. I grew Merlot last year and adored that lettuce. I failed to get some seed of that variety for 2011 but will try to find some before next spring, as it is a lovely deep red loose leaf that is delicious in salads.

  9. I have been wondering about the bitterness of endive... I like the variety of flavors in my salads, but my better half, who has just started experimenting with lettuce, finds the bitterness a little too much. But now I know to blanch it to make it less obstrusive. Thanks for the info!

  10. That endive is just so pretty. I only have lettuce and Asian greens for the salad. I've never been a big fan of endive, but I wish I were because it is beautiful.


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