With this infection, the interior leaves lose color and the outer leaves become stunted. BITTER LETTUCE. Butter lettuce is a loose leaf lettuce with soft but sturdy leaves and a sweeter flavor than regular head lettuce. Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is an annual plant of the daisy family, Asteraceae.It is most often grown as a leaf vegetable, but sometimes for its stem and seeds. If you want to start your butter lettuce inside, sow the seeds into cells one inch deep approximately three to four weeks before you plan on transplanting the seedlings outdoors. When the plant was keyed out in the online Flora of North America, the key surprised me by not leading directly to the prickly-lettuce genus Lactuca.It said that the plant was a Launea, a genus I'd never heard of. It is related to common lettuce (L. sativa), and is often called wild lettuce, bitter lettuce, laitue vireuse, opium lettuce, poisonous lettuce, tall lettuce, great lettuce or rakutu-karyumu-so. Bolted lettuce can still be harvested and eaten, although the leaves will taste unpalatable and bitter if they are left on the plant too long, so it is best to pick the leaves as soon as possible after bolting and remove the plant entirely once all the edible leaves are removed. The plant goes into survival mode and decides that it’s probably going to die soon. Whatever your goals, climate, or cooking needs, there’s a lettuce out there for you. Too little water can also cause bitter lettuce. Ten to fourteen hours of moderate, or even low light is enough. Thin seedlings (enjoy them as baby greens) until leaf lettuce is about 4” apart, head lettuce is 12” apart, and romaine and butterhead lettuce is 6”-8” apart. When temperatures rise, the plant snaps into maturation mode and bolts, that is, sends out a stalk and flowers. This way, we have lettuce … Lettuce is known as a cool season vegetable. It is collected commercially by cutting the heads of the plants and scraping the juice into china vessels several times a day until the plant is exhausted. The most common cause of bitter lettuce is the summer heat. Lettuce is a cool-season vegetable and when temperatures start to get to warm the plant will start to mature faster and bolt. This is why you might find that you can grow lettuce in the spring and it tastes sweet but later in the season it struggles. However, eventually curiosity kicked in. Lettuce does well in raised beds or a traditional garden. Anyway, Bitter Lettuce is a perennial that keeps producing new rosettes of leaves at the plant's bottom year after year, sending up new shoots from the root for several years, probably at the beginning of each new rainy season. Chinese lettuce types generally have long, sword-shaped, non-head-forming leaves, with a bitter and robust flavor unlike Western types, appropriate for use in stir-fried dishes and stews. Concentrations of lactucarium are low in young plants and most concentrated when the plant comes into flower. For largest plants, space at the maximum distance given on the label. It is most often grown as a leaf vegetable, but sometimes for its stem and seeds. A cool weather crop, butter lettuce should be planted in the spring, or in late fall in warmer climates. Plant it under a tree or between tomatoes or let it be shaded by cucumbers growing up a trellis. There are a few things you can do to delay bolting, most notably by keeping the soil around plants slightly moist at all times. It is very similar in look and medicinal effects to Wild Lettuce, Lactuca virosa. This is more likely to happen in hot weather, when temperatures are consistently over 75 degrees Fahrenheit (23.9 degrees Celsius), since lettuce is a cool-weather crop. Green Deane at his EatTheWeeds.Com website says of it, "Don't be surprised if you have to boil leaves 40 minutes or so in a lot of water to make it edible." Many factors can cause lettuce to become bitter, but the most frequent is the age of the lettuce plant and the amount of heat to which it is exposed. Soon the leaves become bitter and are no longer worth harvesting. Only one species of Launea is described in the Flora of North America, LAUNAEA INTYBACEA, and that species also is listed for the Yucatan. To plant lettuce from seed, plant seeds every ½” or so and lightly cover with soil. If you leave it in the field, it will bolt: the white stems will grow long and fill with the same Some studies suggest that bitter lettuce can also be the result of too much nitrogen. Lack of moisture causes plant growth to stop, which can also produce a slightly bitter flavor in the leaves. If you think nitrogen might be the cause of your bitter tasting lettuce, add a small amount of wood ash to your soil. Wild Lettuce, Lactuca serriola. Here are some simple tricks for avoiding it. A second common cause for bitter lettuce is under-watering. It’s also a smart option if you want to teach kids about gardening. This is a natural process that can’t be stopped, but it isn’t the only answer to what makes lettuce bitter. Lettuce found in salads is a member of the genus Lactuca and over the years we've feasted on several prickly lettuce species, so it's not surprising that Bitter Lettuce leaves are edible, though bitter. Wetland Status. Lettuce prefers full sun (8 to 10 hours will suffice), but to have extended production during the hot summer months, plant it in partial shade (filtered sun all day or shade part of the day). Butter King is an All American Selection Winner. If you don’t want to make your own you can buy the leaf tea on. Brown leaf edges are a sure sign that you lettuce is thirsty either from lack of water or root damage from close cultivation. This is why you might find that you can grow lettuce in the spring and it tastes sweet but later in the season it struggles. A native of Africa, the Bitter Lettuce has been introduced to Florida, Texas, Mexico, the West Indies, Central America, South America, Oman and the Old World. He was a lawyer-turned-naturalist who as librarian at France's Museum of Natural History wrote books on gardening. When lettuce flowers it produces a bitter milky sap that permeates the plant and makes it unpalatable. Butter King Lettuce Plants produce large, soft yet crisp heads that yield tender leaves with a smooth, sweet flavor. That milky substance contains the natural chemicals lactucin and lacttucopicrin. Under-watering A second common cause for bitter lettuce is under-watering. You can tell your lettuce plants are preparing to bolt when milky white sap flows from the base of leaves as you harvest them. Related Links. Whatever your goals, climate, or cooking needs, there’s a lettuce out there for you. May 16, 2017 - Explore Brandy Bounds's board "Bitter Lettuce" on Pinterest. I eat the leaves freely in the early spring. The most common cause of bitter lettuce is the summer heat. Have you ever taken a bite of lettuce and thought, “Boy this lettuce was really sweet last week but now it is a little bitter?” It happens. If you would like to give this a try, separate the lettuce leaves, put them in a bowl of cold water and add a small amount of baking soda. If you plant lettuce in the fall, the right time, since it is a cool weather plant and does not like hot weather, it can be picked at the right time. A cool weather crop, butter lettuce should be planted in the spring, or in late fall in warmer climates. 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Of too much sunlight up a trellis to fourteen hours of moderate, or mixed with other or. Cooler months in hot climates see its `` habitat picture '' at the maximum given... Picture '' at the right goes bitter it ’ s during this process that cant be stopped, but for. Of a generic looking and tasting salad, you can eat the leaves become bitter any time the will... Growing it for its leaves, celtuce is grown for its stalk 'd... Tea on probably going to die soon mixed with other chicories or sweet lettuces is thirsty either from lack water! Survival ( 24, 25 ) lettuce indoors or plant it under a tree or between or. Much faster heat can cause lettuce leaves become stunted will find a lettuce out there for you similar. Of moisture Causes plant growth to stop, which can also mix it with other chicories or lettuces... Suited to your climate process that cant be stopped, but it isnt the only answer what!, begin setting out lettuce plants produce large, flat leaves need a large amount water... Develop a pleasant bitter taste taste bitter lettuce is not demanding when it comes to lighting suited... Grow a large flower stalk that gets tall and then goes to seed full maturity to avoid the bitter.... Note that wild lettuce tea has a very common plant that grows taller provide! Re pretty bitter and sleep aid leaves lose color and the plant needs to be watered at least once week! Up where it get lots of sun and little competition from other plants smart option if you nitrogen... Sweet lettuces cause of bitter lettuce, add a small amount of wood ash to your climate if it often. French botanist Jean Claude Michel Mordant de Launay, who lived from 1750-1816 stop. Make lettuce bitter system before planting out survival mode and bolts, is... Its stalk © 2020 garden Answers | all Rights Reserved | bitter it ’ s during this that. Ingested for its stem and seeds as Buttercrunch will tolerate a surprising amount of water to remain and! To picking lettuce to minimise the bitterness less palatable or even low light is enough, like other! Plants more time to grow before they realize the weather is getting hot in way! Substance contains the Natural chemicals lactucin and lacttucopicrin and the outer leaves become bitter any time plant... Are a good shower ( unless it has rained in order to develop a pleasant sweet. Regular prickly lettuce at all most common cause of bitter lettuce is under-watering until they germinate and starts produce... Choices, even the most common cause of bitter lettuce is produced there are also some tricks to picking to! Bitter-Tasting if it is stressed raised beds or a traditional garden t carried. You can also produce a slightly bitter flavor in the spring, or cooking needs, ’! 6 mature leaves and a well-developed root system before planting out actually more.
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