Romaine lettuce is one of the well-known salad greens in the United States. It’s been growing and harvested for centuries, but you might not know that it’s one of the easiest salad greens to grow at home. It’s also one of the most versatile, and it can be used in different ways, from making your own Caesar salad to using it as a bed for grilled chicken or fish.
This article will show you how to harvest romaine lettuce so that you can save yourself some time and ensure a well-tasting salad!
Before you learn how to harvest romaine lettuce, learn more about this plant!
Romaine lettuce or also known as Lactuca sativa is a yummy edible lettuce. It has vibrant deep green color and wide and sturdy leaves. It has a crisp texture and a mild flavor. Unlike any other lettuce varieties, romaine lettuce can tolerate heat due to its elongated leaves.
Most people use romaine lettuce in salads, but thanks to its versatility, you can also saute and grill it.
Romaine lettuce is one of the healthiest green leaves. It’s rich in the following nutrients.
- Vitamin C
- Folic acid
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin A
Aside from its nutrients, romaine lettuce is also low in calories, perfect for your heart.
How to tell when your romaine lettuce is ready to pick?
If you planted romaine lettuce from seeds, it would take three months for it to fully mature. Part of learning how to harvest romaine lettuce is to know the perfect timing.
Here are some things to look for.
- It has dark green leaves.
- Leaves look more open.
- Leaves should be overlapping in their tight bunch.
- It should be harvested in its full size but make sure to pick before it reaches full maturity.
Harvesting romaine lettuce when it’s still young will save it from being bitter. You do not want bitter romaine lettuce for your salad.
How to harvest romaine lettuce?
It’s essential to know how to harvest romaine lettuce properly. This is true if you want to produce a higher yield. How you cut and harvest can affect the chance of your lettuce regrowing.
So how to harvest romaine lettuce? Here are the steps!
Make sure that you know when you exactly planted your romaine lettuce. One way to do this is to mark the planting date. You need this date to calculate the maturity date. Typically, the estimated maturity date for romaine lettuce is around 55 to 65 days.
Although you still need to check the type of variety, you have since the maturity date depends on it. Likewise, other growing conditions such as temperature, humidity, soil conditions, and fertilizer affect the maturity rate.
Remove the outer leaves of the baby romaine lettuce during growth. This is your first harvesting phase, but you are still saving the lettuce for further growth.
Keep an eye on the growth of your romaine lettuce as it’s nearing its maturity date. You need to check for signs of redness.
You can check it by squeezing the head. If the head is loose and compresses quickly, it’s still immature. Meanwhile, if the head is hard, it simply means it’s overly ripe. Ideally, you can harvest lettuce between 6 to 8 inches tall when the leaves start to be tight.
Check your romaine lettuce every morning, especially when it’s nearing its harvest time. You need to harvest it in the morning and not in the afternoon. The reason is that you need crisp lettuce, and they’re crisper in the morning.
It’s time to cut it! Cut the heads below the lower leaves and above the soil line. Use a sanitized and sharp knife when cutting your romaine lettuce. But why cut it instead of pulling it?
Cutting your romaine lettuce will give it a chance to regrow, which awaits you for another harvest. But you can dig or pull your whole lettuce crop if you don’t want to harvest again.
Always disinfect your knife before and after you cut romaine lettuce.
Tips when growing romaine lettuce
Like any other crop, romaine lettuce has growing conditions. And before you learn how to harvest romaine lettuce, you need to learn how to grow them properly to get a healthy crop.
Here are the following tips you need to remember when growing romaine lettuce.
Temperature and soil conditions
Romaine lettuce prefers temperatures between 55 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. You do not want your lettuce to be exposed to hot weather, or else it’ll taste bitter and lead to withering.
In terms of soil, you must plant it in muck soil or sandy loam.
Although it’s a cool-season crop, you must water your lettuce frequently. Water them in the morning and if you don’t know when is the next, just look at your crop. If the lettuce looks dry or wilted, then sprinkle it with water.
Romain lettuce demands nitrogen to boost its growth. So, you need to feed them with a fertilizer rich in potassium and phosphorus. You can also use organic sources of nitrogen, such as the following.
- Blood meal
- Fish meal
- Cottonseed meal
Lettuces can attract aphids, and this pest can destroy your crop. So, to prevent it is to planting barrier crops or plants. This includes garlic and chives. You can plant them in a row between your lettuce.
Harvest your romaine lettuce the right way!
Now that you’ve learned how to harvest romaine lettuce, it’s time to apply it in real life. As we’ve discussed, you must know when’s the right time to pick your lettuce. You should not pick them up too soon and never let them sit too late. You want tender and crisp lettuce without bitterness.
If you’re growing lettuce in your garden, you can consider the tips we’ve mentioned above. It’s not just the harvesting process that is crucial to the quality of lettuce. It also boils down to the growing conditions of your lettuce.
So, next time you plan to enjoy a salad with romaine lettuce, ensure that you know how to take care of them and harvest them properly. This way, you can enjoy fresh and well-tasting romaine lettuce that can serve you more than one harvest!