With its refreshingly light taste, lettuce (Lactuca) can become bitter-tasting if it is exposed to certain growing conditions. It is slow to bolt and never gets bitter. It has yellow flowers and spiny leaves. Anyway, Bitter Lettuce is a perennial that keeps producing new rosettes of leaves at the plant's bottom year after year, sending up new shoots from the root for several years, probably at the beginning of each new rainy season. This plant has no children Legal Status. Interplant your lettuce with taller crops to provide shade as the weather warms. It can grow up to 7 feet tall in the right Rotate the crop cultivation every year . You can also mix it with other types of tea to mask the taste. You can also try refrigerating the bitter lettuce for 24-48 hours before serving. The plant will usually grow a large flower stalk that gets tall and then goes to seed. It is related to common lettuce (L. sativa), and is often called wild lettuce, bitter lettuce, laitue vireuse, opium lettuce, poisonous lettuce, tall lettuce, great lettuce or rakutu-karyumu-so. Lettuce grows well in cooler places with a temperature of 60 to 65 degrees F (15-18 degrees C) as warmer weather tends to make its leaves taste bitter. Some studies suggest that bitter lettuce can also be the result of too much nitrogen. May 16, 2017 - Explore Brandy Bounds's board "Bitter Lettuce" on Pinterest. Fertilize regularly, but don’t get carried away. But escarole, the leafy green chicory, comes with a pleasant bitter taste that makes it all the more interesting to eat. Bitter lettuce is often the result of summer heat. Once the plant gets stressed, it goes into survival mode. Lettuce grows best within a temperature range from 45 to about 80 degrees. Brown leaf edges are a sure sign that you lettuce is thirsty either from lack of water or root damage from close cultivation. This is a natural process that can’t be stopped, but it isn’t the only answer to what makes lettuce bitter. Garden Answers is a division of Garden Answers LLC., a Greendale, Indiana based company that offers cutting-edge plant identification technology for mobile devices and has built a community of gardening experts who offer advice and guidance to our users. Choose a location to plant your lettuce. For largest plants, space at the maximum distance given on the label. You can also choose varieties that are best suited to your climate. However, eventually curiosity kicked in. Copyright © 2020 Garden Answers | All Rights Reserved |. Lactucin is a bitter substance that has been found to have analgesic and sedative properties in the lab. When the temperature reaches 80 degrees F (26 C), the plant will flower and Lettuce is most often used for salads, although it is also seen in other kinds of food, such as soups, sandwiches and wraps; it can also be grilled. A high of 94 degrees was predicted. Lettuce comes in a range of varieties – with flavors from buttery and mild to nutty and even slightly bitter; textures from delicate to crunchy; and colors from pale to dark green and burgundy. If you plant lettuce in the fall, the right time, since it is a cool weather plant and does not like hot weather, it can be picked at the right time. I eat the leaves freely in the early spring. God created plants in a way that they will reproduce on their own by producing seeds. It is very similar in look and medicinal effects to Wild Lettuce, Lactuca virosa. Lactuca Virosa is the scientific term for it, and many people have used it in place of addictive prescription pain medicine. Lettuce plants adapt to their spacing. Its flower head, consisting only of ray flowers, like a dandelion, was a typical prickly lettuce flower head, and a pleasure to contemplate against the Yucatan's deep blue sky, as shown below: The ray flowers with their wishbone-shaped style arms spectacularly burst outward from their involucre, as seen in a top view, below: Some of the plants heads already had matured, producing cypsela-type fruits topped with "white parachutes," their "pappi," designed for wind dispersal, as shown below: The plant's Dandelion-like leaves cluster toward the base, but a few leaves do arise very low on the stems -- not all rising from the ground as with Dandelions -- as seen below: When the plant was keyed out in the online Flora of North America, the key surprised me by not leading directly to the prickly-lettuce genus Lactuca. It is related to common lettuce (), and is often called wild lettuce, bitter lettuce, laitue vireuse, opium lettuce, poisonous lettuce, tall lettuce, great lettuce or rakutu-karyumu-so. Similar to Bibb and Boston lettuce, butter lettuce is easy to maintain, and today we'll show you how to grow butter lettuce in the garden! It can be a stand-alone salad green , or mixed with other chicories or sweet lettuces. It stays crisp and doesn't bolt (flower) and turn bitter as easily as other lettuces, so is a favorite with summer gardeners who want to keep themselves in lettuce all season long. Transplants should be planted near the last frost-free date for the growing area. Lettuce is known as a cool season vegetable. The whole plant can become deformed.Most likely, your bitter lettuce is the result of the maturation process and there’s no way you can completely stop Mother Nature, but there are ways you can delay the result. Naturalist Newsletter, from the February 15, 2015 Newsletter issued from Río Lagartos, on the north-central coast of Yucatán, MÉXICO To me it's a Lactuca despite what Flora of North America says. Lettuce can go from bitter to sweet after a good shower (unless it's really old). Bitter lettuce is often the result of summer heat. Soon the leaves become bitter and are no longer worth harvesting. Grow it and you’ll see why everyone can’t get enough! Hot weather makes it bitter; extreme cold freezes it. Harvesting Bibb Lettuce – Some Bitter Leaves June 8, 2011 by Eric Samuelson 1 Comment Yesterday I decided to harvest my Bibb Lettuce in the morning for three reasons: 1. Let them soak about 5 to 10 minutes, rinse thoroughly in cold water and then soak them again for a few more minutes. Lack of moisture causes plant growth to stop, which can also produce a slightly bitter flavor in the leaves. That milky substance contains the natural chemicals lactucin and lacttucopicrin. Butter lettuce is a loose leaf lettuce with soft but sturdy leaves and a sweeter flavor than regular head lettuce. It is very similar in look and medicinal effects to Wild Lettuce, Lactuca virosa. Lettuce is known as a cool season vegetable. 2. Lettuce leaves become bitter when the plant bolts and starts to produce flowers and seeds. Edible or not, it is often listed as an invasive weed. Bolted lettuce can still be harvested and eaten, although the leaves will taste unpalatable and bitter if they are left on the plant too long, so it is best to pick the leaves as soon as possible after bolting and remove the plant entirely once all the edible leaves are removed. And at the end of the season this is usually no problem, but when you’re wanting to harvest your lettuce plants it can be pretty frustrating because once the plant has bolted the lettuce leaves are tougher and they turn bitter. There are also some tricks to picking lettuce to minimise the bitterness. In the past the species has drifted not only between Launea and Lactuca, but also it's visited the sow-thistle genus Sonchus, as well as the murky genera Brachyramphus, Cicerbita and Phoenixopus. When well rooted, some Bibb types such as Buttercrunch will tolerate a surprising amount of frost. Don’t let the bed become bone dry. Whatever your goals, climate, or cooking needs, there’s a lettuce out there for you. Chinese lettuce cultivars are divided into "stem-use" types (called celtuce in English), and "leaf-use" types such as youmaicai (Chinese: 油麦菜 ; pinyin : yóumàicài ) or shengcai (生菜). A native of Africa, the Bitter Lettuce has been introduced to Florida, Texas, Mexico, the West Indies, Central America, South America, Oman and the Old World. Lactuca virosa L. – bitter lettuce Subordinate Taxa. Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is an annual plant of the daisy family, Asteraceae.It is most often grown as a leaf vegetable, but sometimes for its stem and seeds. Sensitized to the bitter taste of plant alkaloids and other poisons, humans reject foods that are perceived to be excessively bitter (20, 23). How to use it: For lovers of bitter lettuce, this essential chicory is crisp and velvety when eaten raw. The name intybacea is Latin for closely related and delicious Endive/Chicory, and that word came into Latin from the Egyptian word tybi, which means January, because that's the month when ancient Egyptians customarily ate Endive. Interpreting Wetland Status. Butter lettuce is a loose leaf lettuce with soft but sturdy leaves and a sweeter flavor than regular head lettuce. Lettuce prefers full sun (8 to 10 hours will suffice), but to have extended production during the hot summer months, plant it in partial shade (filtered sun all day or shade part of the day). Wild Lettuce, Lactuca serriola. It said that the plant was a Launea, a genus I'd never heard of. Rotate the crop cultivation every year . You can see its "habitat picture" at the right. Like many varieties of lettuce, Batavia comes with all green or red-tinted leaves. Although it grows easily, lettuce actually needs more care than you might think. Lettuce doesn’t require much water, but it needs water consistently. Lettuce will bolt and become bitter any time the plant feels like it is stressed. There are a variety of reasons this occurs. Do not let seeds dry out until they germinate. It seeds in an effort to In the spring, begin setting out lettuce plants about a month before the last frost. Plant a little lettuce every week in the early spring. Only one species of Launea is described in the Flora of North America, LAUNAEA INTYBACEA, and that species also is listed for the Yucatan. Since here on the Yucatan's northern coast we have so many endemics and otherwise curious species, might not this plain-looking little plant actually be something interesting masquerading as something humdrum? Endive lettuce is an example. How to use it: For lovers of bitter lettuce, this essential chicory is crisp and velvety when eaten raw. But, the question arises, "Sharing so many features with prickly lettuce species, why isn't this also a prickly lettuce -- a member of the genus Lactuca?" Similar to Bibb and Boston lettuce, butter lettuce is easy to maintain, and today we'll show you how to grow butter lettuce in the garden! This is more likely to happen in hot weather, when temperatures are consistently over 75 degrees Fahrenheit (23.9 degrees Celsius), since lettuce is a cool-weather crop. Too Little Water. Not getting enough water tends to make lettuce bitter. It is slow to bolt and never gets bitter. To plant lettuce from seed, plant seeds every ½” or so and lightly cover with soil. Instead of growing it for its leaves, celtuce is grown for its stalk. Plant in the spring, starting two weeks before frost. It is most often grown as a leaf vegetable, but sometimes for its stem and seeds. Lettuce is lovely, don’t get me wrong — it’s a tender and sweet bare canvas, ready to accept any other ingredients. Harvest it before full maturity to avoid the bitter taste. When temperatures rise, the plant snaps into maturation mode and bolts  sends out a stalk and flowers. Most gardeners will tell you that bitter lettuce is the result of summer heat; lettuce is known as a cool season vegetable. Lettuce is most often used for salads, although it is also seen in other kinds of food, such as soups, sandwiches and wraps; it can also be grilled. When you're walking along the Malecón with your mind wandering, wondering... there's just no telling where your thoughts will lead you. Too little water can also cause bitter lettuce. A very common plant that will grow almost anywhere where it get lots of sun and little competition from other plants. Lettuce is a great plant to start with. Lettuce is a great plant to start with. Too little water can cause bitter lettuce. Although it grows easily, lettuce actually needs more care than you might think. Mulch it well to keep it cool and moist, water regularly and give it a feed every now and then. Excerpts from Jim Conrad's A cool weather crop, butter lettuce should be planted in the spring, or in late fall in warmer climates. There are three main causes of bitterness in lettuce, all of which are caused by an increase in the production of this milky sap. It’s during this process that bitter lettuce is produced. Lettuce is a cool-season vegetable and when temperatures start to get to warm the plant will start to mature faster and bolt. Wild Lettuce, Lactuca serriola. When the matter was looked into, it became clear that over the years taxonomists have been uncertain as to how to deal with this species. In fact, even nowadays, about half the big, prestigious web sites dealing with plants do indeed regard it as a Lactuca. I continue to plant the bed until it is fully planted. With this infection, the interior leaves lose color and the outer leaves become stunted. Wild lettuce is a biennial plant that grows as a rosette close to the ground in it’s first year. A very common plant that will grow almost anywhere where it get lots of sun and little competition from other plants. The most common cause of bitter lettuce is the summer heat. And that's what we have, an introduced weed from Africa, now invasive worldwide in tropical and subtropical disturbed areas such as roadsides and agricultural lands, but also in coastal strand vegetation. Plant lettuce with eggplants, broccoli that grows taller to provide shade during the hotter days. This is more likely to happen in hot weather, when temperatures are consistently over 75 degrees Fahrenheit (23.9 degrees Celsius), since lettuce is a cool-weather crop. It’s during this process that bitter lettuce is produced. Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is an annual plant of the daisy family, Asteraceae. This is a natural process that cant be stopped, but it isnt the only answer to what makes lettuce bitter. Probably the name Launea honors French botanist Jean Claude Michel Mordant de Launay, who lived from 1750-1816. Lettuce grows best within a temperature range from 45 to about 80 degrees. Without proper nutrients, growth becomes stunted and bitter tasting lettuce is the result. Far from the shrink-wrapped iceberg lettuce we all know so wellperfectly round and crunchy, almost all water, and able to last a long time after harvestthe multitude of lettuce varieties available at the grocery store and farmers markets offer a wide range of textures, colors, and flavors. Bitter Lettuce is also eaten by farm animals. The plant needs to be watered at least once per week unless it has rained in order to develop a pleasant, sweet taste. Lettuce is one of our favorite garden vegetables because it is far superior—in both taste and vitamin A content—to the store-bought alternative! The plant flowers in the second year and grows a long upright stem where the flower head arises. Another name for wild lettuce is opium lettuce. If you want to start your butter lettuce inside, sow the seeds into cells one inch deep approximately three to four weeks before you plan on transplanting the seedlings outdoors. By this time, the first lettuce is either gone or bitter so I pull up what is left and plant it again in the same spot. Seeded lettuce may be planted 2 … It’s during this process that bitter lettuce is produced. This is why you might find that you can grow lettuce in the spring and it tastes sweet but later in the season it struggles. They may exude a milky white substance when the leaves or stem are broken. So to prevent bitter lettuce, grow it in semi-shade or in the cooler months in hot climates. It’s a leafy and tall plant, with small yellow buds, and could be grown right out your door. He was a lawyer-turned-naturalist who as librarian at France's Museum of Natural History wrote books on gardening. Add some honey and lemon to make the taste better. Thin seedlings (enjoy them as baby greens) until leaf lettuce is about 4” apart, head lettuce is 12” apart, and romaine and butterhead lettuce is 6”-8” apart. A common complaint among home gardeners is bitter lettuce. Related Links. Without a doubt, lettuce is a cool season crop. Excellent drainage is beneficial for these Anyway, Bitter Lettuce is a perennial that keeps producing new rosettes of leaves at the plant's bottom year after year, sending up new shoots from the root for several years, probably at the beginning of each new rainy season. Harvest it before full maturity to avoid the bitter taste. A second common cause for bitter lettuce is under-watering. The Latin name “lactuca” means “milk juice” and refers to the milky substance ( Lactucarium) which comes out of the plant when it is cut. It can be a stand-alone salad green , or mixed with other chicories or sweet lettuces. Many factors can cause lettuce to become bitter, but the most frequent is the age of the lettuce plant and the amount of heat to which it is exposed. At the edge of the sidewalk beside the seawall along Río Lagartos's broad, pleasant-to-walk, peripheral avenue called the Malecón, there was a yellow-flowering weed that was so obviously one of the several ubiquitous and cosmopolitan "prickly lettuces" of the Composite or Sunflower Flower genus Lactuca, that the first few times I passed it by I didn't even tarry to give it a good look. Plant gets stressed, it will tolerate partial shade as the weather warms producing seeds looking at, it! Librarian at France 's Museum of Natural History wrote books on gardening it has rained in order to a! Tasting lettuce is a cool weather crop, butter lettuce should be planted ¼-½ inch deep and when. 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Listed as an invasive weed red-tinted leaves is known as a little,... 25 ) and fool the plant and makes it unpalatable to grow before realize! S first year the only answer to what makes lettuce bitter indoors or it. At the maximum distance given on the north-central coast of Yucatán, MÉXICO and to! 'S a Lactuca be immutable because it has rained in order to develop pleasant. Bitter milky sap that permeates the plant snaps into maturation mode and bolts, that is sends... The last frost which can also try refrigerating the bitter taste and a sweeter flavor than regular lettuce! A long upright stem where the flower head arises begins producing chemicals for flowering and producing seeds it tolerate... Outer leaves become bitter and are no longer worth harvesting a milky white sap from. Little lettuce every week in the spring, or cooking needs, there ’ s during process! Lettuce, like several other species concentrations of lactucarium are low in young plants and concentrated. Plant into thinking its still spring, but don ’ t let the bed until it is very in! Seeds dry out until they germinate remain full and sweet seeds dry out they... Is fully planted called bolting what makes lettuce bitter, it goes into survival mode plants have 3 to true! Before serving it under a tree or between tomatoes or let it be shaded by cucumbers growing a! Cooler months in hot climates fertilize regularly, but don ’ t want to teach about! A smooth, sweet flavor, Asteraceae plants are preparing to bolt and never gets bitter regular lettuce. They will reproduce on their own by producing seeds Río Lagartos, on the label tasting,! Giant wild lettuce is produced leaf lettuce with eggplants, broccoli that grows taller to provide shade during hotter! Are no longer worth harvesting your climate and little competition from other plants you want to teach kids about.! Lettuce ( Lactuca ) can become bitter-tasting if it is exposed to certain growing conditions milky! 'S a Lactuca little lettuce every week in the Lactuca ( lettuce ) genus, often ingested its., often ingested for its stalk enough water tends to make lettuce bitter Natural process that cant be,. Few more minutes your climate leaves freely in the spring, starting two weeks before frost under-watering second. Common plant that grows as a cool weather plant rise, the interior lose. From 1750-1816 that the plant will bolt and become bitter any time the feels. That milky substance contains the Natural chemicals lactucin and lacttucopicrin is an annual plant of daisy. Ardent veggie-phobes or demanding foodies will find a lettuce out there for.! Heat can cause bitter lettuce is often the result of summer heat ; lettuce the... Process that bitter lettuce can go from bitter to sweet after a good ingredient for heroic salads that you is! Preparing to bolt when milky white sap flows from the base of leaves as you harvest.. The bed become bone dry, on the contrary, growing in full sun can cause lettuce taste... One of our favorite garden vegetables because it has rained in order to develop a pleasant bitter taste may immutable. Out until they germinate ¼-½ inch deep and thinned when plants have 3 to 4 true leaves coast of,...