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Lettuce

Lettuce Lactuca sativa

Loose-leaf varieties can be sown all at once in early spring and the leaves harvested, a few at a time, from each plant when needed. All others can be harvested through the season if they are sown in succession. Most are pretty hardy and can be grown throughout the year with minimal protection, but some of the older varieties we offer can be grown through the winter without any protection when given a sheltered position (except in the harshest weather). Make the first sowings into seed trays, pots or modules under protection in February and plant out, after hardening off, in March with cloches or fleece to protect them. Later sowings can be direct (with a little protection) in early spring, in rows 30cm apart and thinned to 25cm within rows. Larger varieties need a bit more space – we recommend 35-40cm. Lettuce seed will not germinate at soil temperatures above 25°C, especially just a few hours after sowing. If you sow with protection or in summer ensure that the seedbed remains cool for at least 24 hours, by shading if necessary. Liberal amounts of water ensure tender leaves with less bitterness, and reduce the risk of plants running to seed prematurely. Harvest when the head is firm to the touch with the back of the hand. Too much water and humidity can lead to rotting. Aphids and slugs should be watched for, as all lettuce varieties are susceptible to these pests.

Asparagus

Originating in China and cultivated for its stem rather than its leaves. First described by Vilmorin-Andrieux (1885) when introduced to Europe, probably by missionary botanists working in China. Harvest the stems 3-4 months after sowing, at around 30cm high and at least 3-8cm thick. Remove the outer layer revealing the light green flesh and cut into thin slices. The stem is excellent raw, like celery, or lightly cooked in stir-fries.

Please note: this variety needs a little bit more of a helping hand, so we are not able to send out seeds with gifts, however by adopting it you will be directly contributing to its conservation, so that one day we will be able to make it available to everyone.

Bloody Warrior

An ex-commercial variety donated to the Heritage Seed Library by M Ward in 2007. This cos-type lettuce has crisp, green leaves speckled with red. Our donor suggests planting out in autumn and overwintering with protection; the lettuces will heart up for early summer harvesting.

Please note: this variety needs a little bit more of a helping hand, so we are not able to send out seeds with gifts, however by adopting it you will be directly contributing to its conservation, so that one day we will be able to make it available to everyone.

Bronze Arrow

A beautiful, productive and very useful lettuce, this California heirloom is popular in the USA but almost unknown here. It is drought and cold hardy, making it ideal when autumn-sown, for over wintering. It survived frost and snowfall at Ryton, and is also, less popular with slugs. A large, non-hearting type; the attractive, arrowhead-shaped leaves have a distinctive bronze tinge and mild flavour. Seed Guardian Keith Bickmore describes it as “outstanding”.

Please note: this variety needs a little bit more of a helping hand, so we are not able to send out seeds with gifts, however by adopting it you will be directly contributing to its conservation, so that one day we will be able to make it available to everyone.

George Richardson

Donated by Mrs B Richardson, who told us it has been in her late husband’s family for at least 60 years. Autumn sown, this cos lettuce stands well with protection, producing reddish-brown tints on the outside leaves. We found it slow to bolt even inside a polytunnel. This variety was found to be the best performing heritage variety in the EC funded ‘Leafy Veg Trial’, and out-competed all commercial opposition when it came to flavour.

Please note: this variety needs a little bit more of a helping hand, so we are not able to send out seeds with gifts, however by adopting it you will be directly contributing to its conservation, so that one day we will be able to make it available to everyone.

Liller

A huge cabbage-headed lettuce that can weigh anything up to 500g. The unusual pink tinge on leaf margins is temperature-dependent, apparent on planting out the young plants in the spring, but disappearing as they start to mature. Leaves are large, full and smooth, ideal for adding to a sandwich.

Please note: this variety needs a little bit more of a helping hand, so we are not able to send out seeds with gifts, however by adopting it you will be directly contributing to its conservation, so that one day we will be able to make it available to everyone.

Mescher

This Austrian heirloom variety dates back to the 1700s. It is a compact, slow-growing variety requiring little space, and has unusual crinkly, crisp leaves that have a pretty red tinge to the margin, brightening up any salad bowl. The tightly packed leaves blanch the heart, giving it a very sweet flavour. Known to be cold hardy.

Please note: this variety needs a little bit more of a helping hand, so we are not able to send out seeds with gifts, however by adopting it you will be directly contributing to its conservation, so that one day we will be able to make it available to everyone.

White Seeded Samara

A loose-leaf lettuce that produces white seeds, hence the name. HSL Member Julia Prola says, “An attractive, bright apple-green lettuce, with excellent flavour, perfect as a ‘cut-and-come-again’ variety”.

Please note: this variety needs a little bit more of a helping hand, so we are not able to send out seeds with gifts, however by adopting it you will be directly contributing to its conservation, so that one day we will be able to make it available to everyone.


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