A salad vegetable grown in almost every garden, leaf lettuce is also called loose-leaf lettuce. Some types of lettuce you may plant include romaine or cos with their upright, long heads, small, soft butterhead varieties, crisphead or iceberg lettuce, and asparagus or stem lettuce. Knowing how to trim your lettuces while still growing them in your garden or after harvesting will help your lettuce last longer and increase the quality, flavor and presentation of your produce.
Things You'll Need
- Sharp garden scissors or shears
Use sharp garden scissors or shears to trim 2 to 4 inches from your lettuce leaves in the garden when they have grown 6 to 10 inches tall or cut your lettuce carefully to the crown, or the point where the lettuce root joins the stem at ground level.
Fertilize and water your lettuce greens after trimming; your lettuce greens will regrow and be ready for trimming again after two to three weeks. "Cut-and-come-again" represents this process of growing continuous harvests of lettuce, meaning that you do not have to wait until harvest time to enjoy your produce.
Cut off all brown leaf tissue, called "tipburn," from your lettuce. Tipburn is a disease where the tips and edges of the leaves decay from uneven watering during the high temperatures of summer. The rest of the lettuce will not be harmed when you remove the leaves with tipburn. Prevent tipburn by watering your lettuce lightly but frequently to keep the soil evenly moist.
Trim soft lettuces after harvesting by removing damaged, discolored leaves. Soft lettuces include butter lettuce, Bibb and leaf lettuce.
Tear lettuce leaves into bite-size pieces when preparing them for a meal ahead of time rather than cutting them with a metal knife; otherwise, the lettuce leaf edges will rapidly become brown. Ascorbic acid oxidase also releases when you cut or chop lettuce with a knife, destroying its vitamin C content.
Trim the butt of crisphead lettuce, like iceberg lettuce, to within 1/8 to 1/4 inch of the bottom leaf when preparing lettuce for public exhibits, such as vegetable shows. Trim the heads of Bibb lettuce varieties and romaine lettuces by removing damaged, old leaves. Briefly soak the lettuces in water, spray them carefully with water, and then store the lettuces in a dry, cool area until ready for the vegetable show.
Tips & Warnings
- Eat the lettuce trimmings you make when using the cut-and-come-again method in salads and other lettuce dishes.
- Drip dry, remove outer leaves and store unwashed lettuce by wrapping it in slightly damp paper towels, and then sealing it in a plastic bag in your refrigerator crisper. Keep the temperature at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Unwashed lettuce leaves stay fresh longer. Leaf lettuce and butterhead lettuce will last up to four weeks when you bag them dry and iceberg lettuce will keep for up to two weeks when stored in the refrigerator.
- Prepare the lettuce for serving by turning the lettuce head upside down, holding the lettuce with one hand, grabbing the lettuce core with your other hand, and then twisting the core out.
- Do not damage the lettuce crown when trimming or your lettuce will not be able to sprout again.
- University of Illinois Extension; Watch Your Garden Grow - Lettuce; Ron Wolford, et al.
- Real Simple: The Easiest Ways to Trim Produce
- University of Maryland Extension, Grow it Eat it - Lettuce; Jon Traunfeld, et al.; April 2010
- Texas A & M University AgriLife Extension; Vegetable Show Planning Guide; Roland Roberts, et al.
- Harvard Medical School Center for Health and the Global Environment: Healthy and Sustainable Food Salad Greens
- University of Minnesota Extension; Growing Leafy Greens in Minnesota Home Gardens; Cindy Tong; January 2009
- Photo Credit NA/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images
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