Lettuce: Uses and How to grow
Lettuce, though not very popular in India, is a great plant to grow. It grows easily in cool weather and can thrive even in summers (although strong direct sun should be avoided). Lettuce leaves, consumed mostly as salad, are very healthy to eat.
How to grow
Lettuce can be grown in your garden, or even a container – it needs cool weather and good moisture. Since its leaves are eaten raw, try to grow it without using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides; instead add lots of natural compost and organic matter.
It can be sown directly or with seedlings, although sowing directly is preferred. Although not a very common ingredient in Indian households, lettuce seedlings and seeds are easily available with nurseries/ gardening shops.
Lettuce has shallow roots, so use a wide shallow pot to grow lettuce. Choose a pot/ container that is at least 8 inches deep and 8-10 inches wide. Otherwise use a large rectangular container for a few plants.
In pots, sow seeds around 3 inches apart. Place seeds on top of the soil and cover loosely with less than ½ inch thick compost. Don’t pack the compost down as that may prevent the sprouts from emerging. The seeds will sprout in a week to 2 weeks, depending on the weather.
Harvesting & Propagation
Lettuce is ready to harvest at about 60-80 days after sowing. It is important to harvest at the right time – if you let it be in the garden too long, the leaves become tough and bitter. Some of the varieties of lettuce even allow for a second crop, so pick the outer leaves and let the plant grow. If you still get late in harvesting, you can let the plants be and wait for seeds.
Eat the lettuce fresh for the maximum taste and nutrition. Washed leaves can be stored in the fridge for a few days, or frozen in Ziploc pouches for longer periods.
Frequent weeding and hand picking of slogs should help with common pests. Aphids also pose a risk to lettuce, please refer to our organic pesticides page for help!
Lettuce can be mixed with other leafy vegetables of winters for salad and even added to stir fry vegetable.
You may even add fresh leaves in fruit smoothies or hot soups.
Lettuce is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, beta carotene, minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium.
• Vitamin A and C and beta carotene have antioxidant properties.
• Vitamin A is good for skin and eyes.
• Vitamin K helps in healthier bones and is also found to benefit Alzheimer’s patients.
• Minerals found in lettuce enhance body metabolism.
Did you know?
1. The leaf varieties with more bitter taste are rather rich in anti oxidants.
2. The leaves of lettuce should always be torn, never cut for retaining maximum nutrition.