Lettuce are generally sap producing plant and therefore their leaves exudes milk-like fluids when cut. This is characteristics of its scientific name (Lactuca sativa) as the word lettuce was derived from the Latin word Lactuca used to mean milk.
The leafy vegetable is an annual plant that flourishes well in sandy humus medium. Although they give low calories when consumed, they are nonetheless a storehouse of phytonutrients that promises health stability and disease prevention. These include its abundant vitamins A and B carotenes. It has been discovered that 247 percent of daily vitamin A can be provided by just a 100 grams of fresh raw lettuce. It is also a rich and abundant source of Vitamins B and K. The vitamin K component makes it a perfect player in the role of bone metabolism through an increased osteoblastic activity in human bone cells. Its role in helping Alzheimer’s disease patients in limiting neuronal damage in the brain cannot be overemphasized too.
Foliates layers of lettuce are rich sources of vitamin C, which are powerful natural antioxidant, and also help build body resistance against infectious agents. Its mineral compositions which include calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium position it perfectly among body metabolizers. Its mineral roles in cell and body fluid building that help to control heart rate, blood pressure and red blood cell production makes it one of the essential foods in most homes. The most essential component of lettuce is its water, and it perhaps purify the air through its massive photosynthesis process.
Common cultivars of green lettuce
Celtuce: This is the Chinese variety of lettuce characterized with long, tapering, strong flavored and non-head forming leaves. It is popularly grown for its long stem which is used as vegetables and thus are more fancied in stir-fries and stews. Its characteristics are distinctive features to its Western counterpart.
Romane Lettuce: They are grown to a long head of sturdy leaves with stout rib which elongates to the tip of the leaf blade. This is perhaps the most popular type in circulation in the USA.
Loose leaf variety: This particular variety is tender, delicate and flavorful. Their leaves are usually appear in form of a loose bunch. They predominantly include green oak leaf, red oak leaf, Valera, and lolla-rosa types.
Butterhead: Loose leaves and buttery texture, the cultivar is the most popular and most widely cultivated in Europe.
Summer Crisp: the variety forms moderately dense head with crunchy textures. The cultivar intermediate between crisp-head and loose-leaf cultivar.
Crisp head cultivar: They form a dense and tight head that make them resemble cabbage. They are perhaps the mildest form and valued essentially for their crunchy texture than the flavor. They are probably the most familiar type in the USA.
How to Grow Lettuce Indoor
Growing lettuce indoor gives you access to the leafy green all year long. It is one of the easiest vegetables to grow indoor but decisions to be taken before planting lettuce indoor include choosing the right variety/cultivar. Mostly, the smaller lettuce variety known as baby lettuce is best for indoor production. Butterhead and loose-leaf lettuce which belong to this category are really great for container and indoor production. This is because they mature much faster (around 40-45 days) and they don’t take up much rooms and spaces. These varieties could easily be purchased at local nursery or online.
Indoor lettuce could be grown by different methods but all usually take a step by step pattern of choosing a pot or container with good drainage, stocking it with sterilized organic potting mix for best result, planting, fertilizing and harvesting.
Growing Green Lettuce from Lettuce Scraps
Because lettuce is a sun loving plant, the container will be placed where it will receive plenty of sunlight. Example here is at a window sill.
Once all these has been done, new growth would be seen at the center of the lettuce. Lettuce starts growing at a faster rate after day five or six, and lettuce leaves becomes darker and richer at around day 12 and 14. This will be backed up by roots development and all will be an indication that the lettuce is soon ready to be planted on the soil.
Fill the pot with soil to ¾ of it. Then plant the seed and cover them up with soil. Because the seeds are so tiny, you might need to thin the plant as it grows to depopulate the planting space. Because the plant needs about 14-16 hours of sunlight on a daily basis to ensure healthy leave development, you are advised to place the planting pot close to a window sill. If you are more interested in providing your own source of light instead, investing in a grow light is not a bad idea. Also ensure that room temperature is steady at 70 degrees Fahrenheit in the day and between 60 and 65 degree Fahrenheit at night. With these changes, you are carefully and systematically imitating their natural habitat and thus helping growth.
When lettuce are grown especially from the seed, fertilization becomes very important. Try a tiny amount of compost (about a ⅛ – ¼ cup) on the first day of planting and repeat a small amount (about ¼ -½ cup) about every 7-10 days. They take more compost with maturity but care must be taken so that composting wouldn’t be overdone.
Harvesting and Storage
Harvesting of lettuce depends on the size of the leave you want, although they would ordinarily reach maturity between 40 and 45 days. Care must be taken not to harvest the inner leaves so that they would continue to grow. Both mature and immature lettuce leaves have good flavors and thus makes harvesting dependent on the size you would like. However, if you would like to harvest the lettuce head, you might have to wait till 4-6 weeks. Fully matured lettuce produces seeds quickly and you must harvest them before this time so as not to have a bitter taste they usually bring.
Romaine usually stay fresh for up to seven days while the Butterhead and loose-leaf have shorter lives of between two to three days.