Romaine lettuce, also called sometimes chicon, is less and less commonly grown in gardens, but especially by market gardeners, which will end up classifying it as a forgotten vegetable. An annual leafy vegetable, romaine lettuce has been somewhat neglected due to its thicker and harder leaves than other lettuces.
Long and stiff, the leaves can reach 8 to 12 inches and have a large central vein, giving them a slightly spoon-shaped appearance. In fact, some people like to eat it leaf by leaf by dipping the tip in a fresh cream sauce to get the equivalent of a small spoonful.
Like most salads, romaine lettuce can be eaten raw as a salad but also cooked. It is low in calories (15kcal/100g) and rich in calcium and magnesium.
Depending on the variety, the leaves can vary from more or less dark green to light green with a blond tinge. Some are speckled with purple while others are more purple.
When to harvest romaine lettuce?
Head, romaine and batavia lettuces are all ready to be harvested at the same time, about two months after sowing for the spring and summer varieties, and seven months for the slower growing winter varieties.
This is why it is advisable to stagger the sowing in small series spaced 15 days apart, this allows to stagger the harvest.
Cut the head at the base.
Romaine lettuce for cutting is harvested leaf by leaf, as needed, starting with the outer leaves.
How to harvest romaine lettuce?
Harvest your lettuce or romaine lettuce when the core has reached a good size.
- When harvesting, do not pull out the roots as you will prevent it from making new leaves.
- It is better to use a good knife and cut the lettuce 1 inch above the collar.
- Leave the white part and new shoots will appear quickly for another harvest.
- Water regularly to keep the soil moist.
- It is absolutely necessary to harvest before the seed set.
Harvest according to your needs
Cutting lettuce does not form a head and produces leaves that are more or less cut or curled depending on the variety. It is harvested like spinach, by taking from each plant the quantity of leaves needed.
Remove the leaves from around the stem
Cut these leaves with a knife, 1 inch above the ground. It is preferable to take them from the perimeter of the plant, if necessary from several plants, rather than taking leaf by leaf from anywhere.
The arrival of new leaves is then easier. Several harvests can be done successively. It is enough to water regularly the row in fine rain so that the water penetrates better in the ground until the roots.
Hoeing to aerate the soil
It is also advisable to break the surface crust of the soil formed by rainwater and watering in order to aerate the subsoil. To do this, use a hoe. It will also help you to eliminate weeds.
How to store romaine lettuce properly?
Romaine lettuce is best eaten immediately as it wilts and loses its nutritional qualities very quickly (vitamin C in particular). However, it can be stored for a few days at the bottom of the refrigerator, washed and wrapped in a cloth.
Some tips for harvesting romaine lettuce
During the summer, romaine lettuce is harvested in the morning, as early as possible. It will be all the better for having rehydrated with the coolness of the night. On the other hand, in the heat of the day, it can look very wilted.
Disaster! You have a nice line of salads that are pumping, but every day, one salad sags and dies. Typically, this is the work of a large larva that feeds on the main root of romaine lettuce and moves from one salad to the next! To stop the hecatomb, simply take the spade and turn over the last victim lettuce to look for that big gray green among its roots and crush it.
Since drought brings the romaine lettuce into bloom, it’s best to keep the soil slightly moist at all times. A light mulch around the romaine lettuce helps a lot, but it is best to install it at least a week after transplanting, when the lettuce has hardened off and grown a bit more, because slugs especially like to hide under the mulch. There is no need to provide them with both cover and shelter!
As is often the case, when a crop is doing well, it produces too much, and you don’t know what to do with your romaine lettuce. You should know that romaine lettuce can also be eaten cooked, in a dish or in a soup.