- Nancy Redfeather
Lettuce Grow Together!
The Hawai’i Seed Growers Network Online Marketplace has everything you need to grow your own beautiful salads, whether you want to start with single varieties, a mix, or create your own mix. Our selected varieties have been tested over many years in home gardens across Hawai’i. But first, lettuce grow together and dive a little deeper into Lactuca sativa – Lettuce.
Lettuce has ancient roots going all the way back 6,000 years to Egypt, as tomb paintings reveal. It’s part of the Compositae family that has other well known members, such as the daisy and the sunflower. In Egypt it was a bitter leafy green whose seeds were pressed for oil! The Romans began eating lettuce before a meal to boost sexual prowess and also after a meal to help with digestion. The Romans spread lettuce all across Europe, and Columbus carried lettuce seeds to the Americas with accounts of the vegetable growing in outpost gardens as early as 1494. By the 1950s, Iceberg lettuce was a staple in most American homes, but today there are hundreds of varieties that find their niche in every type of climate in the world.
Growing Lettuce in Your Home Garden
In Hawai’i we are fortunate to be able to grow delicious lettuce and have home grown salads year around. Salads can be so creative….start with lettuce and then begin to build flavors of other vegetables, sliced fruits, nuts, and any type of protein! Make a simple dressing of a good olive or flax oil, a bit of a vinegar or lemon if you like, and of course a little salt and pepper. A salad can be a side or the main dish depending on what you decide to add.
Lettuce is easy to grow - either in the soil or in containers - year around in Hawaii. If the season is hot and very wet there are only a few varieties will grow well, but during the rest of the year, all of the varieties offered on our Marketplace grow very easily.
I recommend that you sow lettuce seeds first in cells or sprinkle a dozen or more seeds into a “community pot” to get them started with a few sets of true leaves, then transplant and grow these little lettuce babies up a bit more in a flat before setting out. Grow a few different colors for a variety of nutrients and eye appeal to your salads.
If you sow seed once a month, setting out about 30 or more plants, you will have a never ending supply of delicious and beautiful lettuce for your salad.
Mix and match and experiment with the varieties available on the Hawai’i Seed Growers Network Online Marketplace to find the most suitable varieties for your home garden. All of the varieties available at the HSGN Marketplace have been acclimatized and grown in Hawaii’s diverse microclimates for multiple seed generations, giving you a head start on success! Currently we have more varieties than ever to choose from, and you can read more in depth about each of them on the Hawai’i Seed Growers Marketplace, just click on Greens in the pull down menu beneath Online Store.
New Varieties on the Marketplace!
Two of the newest arrivals on the Hawai'i Seed Growers Network Online Marketplace include the UH Manoa lettuce, developed by UH breeder Richard Hartmann and Concept, a Batavian classic. The Manoa is a tender and buttery variety known to grow well in Hawaii’s gardens and Concept is a dark green, heat-tolerant romaine/summer crisp cross that grows well year around, even during the hot days of summer.
The Kawanui Mescher, Margaret Krimm, and the Lettuce Mix are all grown on the west side of Hawai’i Island. The Lettuce Mix consists of two varieties: Loma, a hardy, lime green crisp Batavian type with great crunch and Hawaiian Sunset, a red oak leaf bred by longtime Hilo lettuce breeder, Russell Nagata. Hawaiian Sunset is a beautiful red-bronze color with a crisp texture and fluffy leaves and performs well in warm, wet condition (Hilo). Grown in the uplands of Maui, Canasta is a well known variety, reliable for its heat tolerance and beautiful rose appearance.
Adding to these are the varieties Kauwela (a selection of five Molokai favorites), Orcas (a speckled Manoa selection), and the diverse Molokai Mix - all grown by seed grower and UH CTAHR extensive agent, Glenn Teves and his wife, Jane, on their family farm in Molokai.
Growing Tips from Glenn Teves
Having plants dry when the sun goes down can minimize diseases such as Downy and Powdery Mildew, and butt rot. Good ventilation and air flow is important to mitigate diseases. Do not crowd plants. Disease pressure for these (and other lettuce diseases) may be mitigated by increasing row spacing, orienting rows for optimum air flow, using drip irrigation, and practicing regular crop rotations. Provide adequate Calcium and avoid excessive Nitrogen and Phosphorus to prevent tip-burn. Even-watering will help to minimize these physiological problems.
Cut lettuce heads at the base when they reach full size. If let to stand in the garden too long they will start to elongate and go to seed, which turns them bitter. Wash in cold water and store in the refrigerator to crisp up. I like to wash the leaves and wrap them in a clean towel before putting the bag in the fridge. This helps their leaves to stay perfectly fresh and crisp until we are ready to eat them.
Lettuce Grow Together in all seasons, supporting one another to have thriving home gardens, sharing seed and food with one another, and creating the vibrant true community food system for Hawai’i that we all know is possible.
Mahalo Nui for coming on this journey with us to reestablish home garden varieties that all growers can successfully use, varieties that can improve our families health and abundance.
Lonoikamakahiki….may your Makahiki season be blessed with abundance in every way!
May this time of harvest and gratitude grow within you.
From all of us at the Hawaii Seed Growers Network, lettuce grow together!
A hui hou,
Hawai’i Seed Growers Network