Lettuce is a popular plant to use for microgreens. Usually, this type of growing is done indoors in a clean environment to minimize processing after harvest. Leaves are harvested 2-3 weeks after germination when they are about 3 inches tall.
These micro salad greens are used popularly in gourmet restaurants. They will top salads and dishes, adorn gourmet sandwiches, and get mixed into smoothies for their nutritional value. Some popular lettuce for microgreens include:
- Arugula – this softly red leaf carries that spicy arugula punch and adds flavor and color to a microgreen mix.
- Mizuna – This Japanese mustard produces green, toothed leaves that give texture to a dish. The flavor is mildly bitter and pleasant.
Baby leaf lettuce is harvested after the microgreen stage but before the lettuce reaches full maturity. Growing a lettuce plant to baby green stage takes 4-6 weeks depending on light, temperature, and variety.
Harvesting baby greens is really about mouthfeel. They carry a mild flavor with a leaf size that can go straight into a salad no chopping required. Some popular lettuces used for baby leaves are:
- Cavendish – This is a deeply lobed leaf with a rich red color. 35 days to maturity.
- Green Saladbowl – Leaves are lobed, heavily curled and lime green. It has thick but delicate texture and mild flavor. 28 days for baby greens, 49 for full sized.
Harvesting lettuce for its outer leaves not only allows you to harvest sooner but also extends the season of the plant. If you pick the outer leaves off of a mature or almost mature lettuce plant, the inner crown will continue to grow more.
- Salanova Green – This popular butter lettuce matures in 25 days for baby and 55 days full size. It grows smooth textured delicate green leaves.
- Flashy Trout Back –A lime green speckled with red splashes adds color to the garden and salad. 22 days for baby green and 55 for full sized.
Believe it or not, this isn’t the last harvest you can get from a lettuce plant. After it flowers it will produce seeds for you to collect. This is the last harvest of leaves, however. Heading lettuces should mature between 55-90 days.
- Crispino – A medium-sized heading iceberg lettuce. This is a popular cultivar that is mature around 57 days from planting.
- Ezbruke – This is a red variety of mini Romaine. It forms small compact heads that are ready to harvest around 52 days from planting.
Many gardeners will plant lettuce close together in rows with the intention of harvesting every other plant early as a baby green or leaf lettuce. This gives the other plants room to mature and form heads. Experiment for yourself!