Harvesting Romaine Lettuce

Romaine lettuces are tall plants with leaves that form a tight head. The leaves have thick, crispy ribs that give that familiar crunch to a Caesar salad. Often touted as one of the more difficult lettuces to grow, Romaine does take a bit longer to mature when compared to loose leaf or butter lettuces. It is planted in spring so that it matures before any hot weather.


When to Harvest

It’s better to harvest Romaine lettuce early rather than late. After it matures it will develop a bitter flavor. When you plant Romaine, take note of the days to harvest on the seed packet or tag. This will be a good indicator for approximately when to pick your lettuce. Look for firm heads that stand tall and don’t collapse under a slight squeeze.

You can measure the width of the plants base stem. Romaine stems are around 3 inches thick when harvested. This will vary between gardens and varieties. You can always break off a leaf. Mature Romaine leaves will have a snap to them while immature plants will be pliable. Then you have something to taste and judge for yourself.

A benefit of growing vegetables yourself is that you get to be the judge of when things are ripe. If it taste’s good, don’t hesitate to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Varieties of Romaine

The variety of lettuce you grow often determines how early it’s ready to harvest. Look at seed packets for specific information on varieties. Here are some common varieties and their features:

  • Dragoon (55-68 days to harvest) – A dense headed, mini green Romaine. Fairly bolt tolerant and resistant to downy mildew. Thick leaves with a crisp texture, this variety pairs well with red Romaines.
  • Paris Island (65-75 days) – This is a full-sized upright green Romaine. One of the most popular varieties for salads, it is slow to bolt and resistant to tip burn.
  • Thurinus (56 days) – A full-sized upright red Romaine lettuce. Forms compact deep red heads with a high resistance to downy mildew.

How to Harvest

There are multiple ways to harvest Romaine lettuce. Many gardeners will combine two or three in order to have a variety of greens.


Romaine is a popular lettuce to use for microgreens. They are typically cut when leaves are 3-4 inches tall or about 2 weeks after germination. For microgreens, simply take a pair of scissors and snip off the leaves at the soil level.

Leaf Harvest

This refers to harvesting the outer leaves while allowing the plant to continue to grow. To do this, as the plant matures and the outer leaves look good for picking, snap them off and leave the inner crown intact. The plant will keep growing new leaves.

Head Harvest

To harvest Romaine heads, use a sharp knife to cut the stem off at ground level. If you leave 2-3 inches of stem above the ground the plant will still send out new leaves. It will not produce another head.

Text: Garden.eco