Why is lettuce bitter?

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The Reason Why Lettuce And Other Leafy Greens Can Make You Seriously Sick

Why is lettuce so often the culprit in illness outbreaks linked to the bacteria E. coli?

A total of 121 people from 25 US states have become ill from E. coli contamination linked to romaine lettuce between March 13 and April 21, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. There has been one death in California resulting from an E. coli infection.

E. coli can be found living in the intestines of both people and animals, as well as in food and in the environment. Almost all strains of E. coli are harmless, but some can cause stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting.

Healthy adults usually recover from an infection of E. coli within a week, but some strains can cause more severe illness, especially in young children and older adults, who are at greater risk of developing kidney failure.

“Leafy greens, such as lettuce, can become contaminated in the field by soil, contaminated water, animals or improperly composted manure,” said Jeff Farber, director of the Canadian Research Institute for Food Safety and a professor at University of Guelph in Ontario. “Lettuce can also be contaminated by bacteria during and after harvest from handling, storing and transporting the produce.”

Usually, people eat romaine lettuce without cooking it, which could kill the germs. “Other raw fruits and vegetables that have come into contact with feces from infected animals are another common source of infection,” Farber said.

Popularity also plays a role in why lettuce is a frequent bad actor: “Lettuce is also eaten the most out of all the produce items,” he said.

From 2010 through the current outbreak, nine outbreaks have been caused by green lettuce or sprouts, compared with 12 from all other food groups, including meat, flour and prepared products, the CDC reports.

Getty Images | Justin Sullivan

Many Modes Of Contamination

In the current outbreak, 52 of the 102 patients who have been interviewed by public health officials have been hospitalized, including 14 who developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome. This 51 percent hospitalization rate is higher than the 30 percent typically seen in E. coli outbreaks.

The strain of bacteria involved in the outbreak is Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157:H7. This “tends to cause more severe illness, which may explain why there is a high hospitalization rate,” the CDC said in its outbreak investigation update.

Between 1998 and 2016, there were 45 outbreaks associated with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli in leafy vegetables reported in the United States, CDC spokeswoman Brittany Behm said. The new one is the largest outbreak of its kind since a deadly E. coli outbreak in 2006 that was linked to spinach.

In the new outbreak, the investigation revealed that several people in an Alaska correctional facility who became sick had consumed romaine lettuce sourced from Harrison Farms of Yuma, Arizona. The agency has not determined where in the supply chain contamination occurred.

“Lettuce can be contaminated in many different ways from the farm through the distribution chain,” Behm said. “It could be from manure in the fields to contaminated water to contamination within a processing facility.”

Rachel Noble, a biologist and professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, explained that because “lettuce is grown very close to the ground,” rain and the process of irrigation allow dirt and silt to “jump up onto the lettuce,” leading to contamination.

“Any commercially grown lettuce product will be put through some basic wash step before it’s sold,” Noble explained. The series of baths and tumblers is not a thorough cleaning, however; it’s just enough that the end product is “appealing to the customer.”

She added that, although commercial producers do some testing for E. coli on wash water and irrigation water, not every single product that makes it into the hands of a customer is tested.

US Has A Very Safe Food Supply

The E. coli testing is based on the Food Safety Modernization Act, a set of regulations enacted in the US in August 2015 that requires growers with a certain size farm to sample water associated with produce, Noble said.

“The goal was to set up a monitoring scheme to protect the public,” she said. The regulations are still being phased in, so some growers have begun monitoring programs but others have not.

Though these monitoring programs measure the total volume of E. coli in the water, it might not take a high number of bacteria to make someone sick, since the Shiga toxin-producing strains can be potent, Noble said.

All told, Farber believes, “both the US and Canada have a very safe food supply.”

Getty Images | Justin Sullivan

Still, consumers have “a role to play,” he said, by paying attention to food recalls and asking questions when they are unsure of quality or safety of a food product. They also need to know “that ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ dates are only based on quality and not safety.”

With the growing season in the Yuma region at an end, Harrison Farms and others in the region are not growing any lettuce now, but the CDC still warns consumers against eating romaine lettuce at this time unless it isn’t from the region.

Generally, Farber recommends washing your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling lettuce and then washing lettuce thoroughly under fresh, cool running water. Wilted or brown leaves should be discarded along with the outer lettuce layer, he said.

The CDC also offers recommendations for consumers to avoid becoming infected with a harmful strain of E. coli. Generally, the agency advises using proper handwashing and kitchen sanitation when preparing food; cooking meat at proper temperatures; avoiding raw milk, unpasteurized dairy products and juices; and not swallowing water when swimming.

“There is no need to use anything other than water to wash lettuce,” Farber said. “Washing it gently with water is as effective as using produce cleansers.”

Written by Susan Scutti for CNN.

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PHOTO: Jessica Walliserby Jessica Walliser June 12, 2019

Lettuce is one of the most popular crops for home gardeners. It’s easy to grow, and there’s a plethora of gorgeous and tasty varieties to include in your veggie patch. That said, lettuce is a cool-weather crop, and once the warm temperatures and long days of summer arrive, lettuce plants go to flower and set seed. Most gardeners rip out their lettuce plants when they bolt. If you do this, you’re missing a great opportunity. Here are five things to do with bolted lettuce.

1. Donate Bolted Lettuce to an Animal Shelter

Bunnies, Guinea pigs and many species of birds enjoy munching on lettuce leaves, even after the plants have gone to flower and are too bitter for human consumption. A former client had a canary who was quite fond of nibbling on the summer lettuce leaves she would feed it every morning.

2. Cut Plants Back to the Ground; Let Them Resprout

This is my favorite thing to do with the bolted lettuce in my garden. Instead of pulling the plants out by the roots, simply cut the tops off and leave the roots intact. The stump will resprout when temperatures cool later in the season and go on to produce a second crop of lettuce in the late summer or fall.

3. Let Plants Flower for Beneficial Insects and Pollinators

Lettuce blossoms are very attractive to many species of parasitic wasps, syrphid flies and other beneficial insects that help gardeners control pests in the landscape. Some species of pollinators nectar on them as well. Lettuce flowers will be buzzing with insect activity soon after they open, and they’ll continue to bloom for many weeks.

4. Collect the Seeds for Next Year’s Garden

Jessica Walliser

Lettuce plants are largely self-pollinating, so if you save the seeds of open-pollinated, heirloom lettuce varieties, there’s a good chance the seeds will come true-to-type (meaning you’ll get the same variety when you plant those collected seeds into next year’s garden). I save seeds from all my heirloom lettuces because even if they don’t come true-to-type, the results are still delicious. Plus, I often end up with some very unique coloration and leaf forms.

5. Use Bolted Lettuce as a Trap Crop

Slugs, earwigs and pill bugs much prefer lettuce to most other garden crops. If you want to keep these leaf-marring insects off broccoli, cabbage and other productive crops, just allow your bolted lettuce plants to stay right where they are. Sprinkle an iron phosphate-based slug bait, such as Sluggo or Escar-Go, between the lettuce rows to get a grip on slug numbers.

If you’re not willing or able to do any of these, there’s always the compost pile. Bolted lettuce plants are a great nitrogen source for the compost bin, especially when they’re used in combination with carbon sources such as autumn leaves and straw.

How Does The “Pet Sematary” Revive Dead Things? Here’s What To Know About The Creepy Stephen King Book

With the new Pet Sematary film adaptation coming out April 4, now is a fantastic time to brush up on your knowledge of Stephen King’s famous 1983 horror novel. If you’ve found yourself struggling to remember how the “Pet Sematary” revives dead things, you’re in luck. I’ve got everything you need to know about the powers of the titular cemetery before the movie comes out. Spoilers for the Pet Sematary book lie ahead, so consider this your warning.

First things first — What is Pet Sematary about? The novel centers on the Creed family — parents Louis and Rachel, and their children, Ellie and Gage — who relocate from Chicago to Ludlow, Maine. Their new neighbor, the elderly Jud Crandall, shows them all the local sights, including the Pet Sematary: an area where generations of Ludlow’s children have buried their pets. Unbeknownst to the Creeds at the time, there is another, hidden part of the “Pet Sematary,” from whence buried things sometimes come back to life.

As you might expect from a Stephen King novel, Pet Sematary follows Louis Creed as he proceeds to bury a number of once-living creatures in the real Pet Sematary — including Church, the family cat, and the couple’s toddler son, Gage — ignoring Jud’s warning that “Sometimes, dead is better.” Both of them come back altered. Church returns to life with a new penchant for slaughtering small animals. Gage comes back and goes on a murder spree as soon as he is able, leaving Louis to stop the evil he has released into the world.

(It’s worthwhile to note that the new film departs from the description above on several levels. For one, the 2019 adaptation of Pet Sematary swaps Gage for Ellie as the child who dies.)

So how does the Pet Sematary bring things back from the dead? Here’s how Jud explains it in the novel: “The Micmacs… made this place, and they buried their dead here, away from everything else. Other tribes steered clear of it — the Penobscots said these woods were full of ghosts. Later on, the fur trappers started saying pretty much the same thing.”

Jud goes on to say that “One of claimed he saw a Wendigo here and that the ground had gone sour,” and that that is why the Native American locals abandoned the area now known as the “Pet Sematary.” When Louis asks whether Jud “think the ground’s gone sour,” he responds: “I think it’s a dangerous place… but not for cats or dogs or pet hamsters.”

So the short answer to the question of how the Pet Sematary works is one of the most classic, and most problematic, tropes of 1980s horror — it’s built on an Indian Burial Ground. This is the explanation you’ve probably heard for the hauntings in The Shining, The Amityville Horror, and Poltergeist — even though Poltergeist specifically shoots down the idea that the haunted house in the film was built on tribal lands. Building on Indian Burial Grounds leads to all sorts of hauntings in ’80s horror media, and in Pet Sematary, the graveyard, once “soured,” is willing to give up its dead to spread evil throughout the world.

The Indian Burial Ground explanation is incredibly problematic, because, as this post on Never Dead Native points out, it assumes the Native Americans and First Nations peoples are all already dead. It also works by creating a force of unknowable evil for the white heroes to combat. On the surface, the trope appears to want the descendants of the original colonizers to atone for their ancestors’ sins, but really, they’re just expected to force the supernatural Other back into submission. Never Dead Native observes that “The Indian Burial Ground trope is successful because of its ability to stir up supernatural trepidation while also appealing to collective societal fears that have been ingrained into public consciousness for centuries.”

The Wendigo, which was left out of the 1989 film adaptation, plays a critical role in readers’ understanding of how the Pet Sematary works. Present in folklore from numerous Native American and First Nations tribes, the Wendigo is a symbol of greed, gluttony, and corruption. It is always hungry, always eating, but never satisfied. A human can become a Wendigo through possession by a malevolent spirit, or by engaging in cannibalism.

Church and Gage come back as mindless killing machines because they have been possessed by the Wendigo spirit that haunts the woods near the Pet Sematary. That possession allows Gage’s reanimated corpse to spew a whole lot of adult language at its victims, who realize, just before their deaths, that the little boy suddenly knows things he should not. Whether the Wendigo in the new movie will work on Ellie’s body in the same way remains to be seen.

The Cat Came Back: Inside the making of the new film version of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary

Curiosity lures the little girl down the old path behind her house — a feeling that only deepens along with the surrounding woods.

She ends up in a clearing, staring at what looks like a scattering of junk and litter. There’s a sideways fishbowl. Moldy stuffed animals stare from the weeds. Boards, pipes, and beaten tin jut from the ground. Photographs and drawings that weep with dried rainwater are tacked to the occasional tree.

Then she notices the debris is arrayed in concentric circles. These are markers. “Smucky the Cat,” one of them reads. “He was obediant.” At the entrance to the clearing stands a weatherworn piece of scrapwood with another misspelling: Pet Sematary.

That’s the familiar title of this new film version of Stephen King’s 1983 novel, a tragic story of a young family, a lonely old man, and a cat with more than nine lives.

Directed by Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kölsch, best known for the 2014 Hollywood horror-satire Starry Eyes, this April 5 film is the latest in a resurgence of King adaptations to follow the monstrous success of last year’s It. Like that tale of Pennywise and the Losers, Pet Sematary is not just based on a best-selling novel but also has an earlier screen adaptation, from 1989, that still leaves a cold spot in the hearts of fans.

“One of the things about doing a new version now is our understanding of life and death has progressed,” says producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura. “But are we more sophisticated about it or less?”

Parents today, he notes, are definitely more fearful and protective than they were in the ’80s. “One of the most interesting themes in the book, the original movie, and this one is, ‘How far would you go to see someone again?’” he says. “But another thing we’re exploring is how you can’t run” from the things that scare you.

You can only face them, live with them — or be destroyed by them.

This scene being shot in the woods of Ontario, Canada, is how Ellie Creed (played by 11-year-old Jeté Laurence) discovers the pet graveyard that other children in the town of Ludlow, Maine, have maintained for generations. But her attention is quickly drawn to the jagged barricade of fallen trees that wall off the rest of the forest.

She doesn’t know it, but there’s another, more sinister burial ground further beyond it.

Ellie is just beginning to climb the deadfall when she feels a sharp pain in her leg and hears a roaring, gravelly voice — “Hey! You get down from there now!” — before losing her footing and plunging to the ground with a cry.

An old man in dirty jeans and a flannel shirt rushes to her aid. His white beard is stained with nicotine, making his mouth a little yellow circle of worry. His name is Jud Crandall (played in the original by Fred Gwynne and now by John Lithgow).

Kerry Hayes/Paramount Pictures

Jud, as King readers remember, is a lighthouse keeper, of sorts. He is one of the last living people who knows what lies beyond the deadfall — and how things buried there don’t lie still for very long.

“He is a good man, but he is a good man with troubles in his life,” Lithgow tells EW during our set visit this summer. “And he’s grown up with some real demons.”

Jud helps Ellie to her feet, then investigates the sharp pain in her leg. He plucks a bee stinger from her calf with his big, grimy hands. “That’s a big ’un,” he says. “No prize winner, but good enough for a ribbon.”

More alarming to the little girl are the macabre graves surrounding them. “What is this place?” she asks.

Jud tries to comfort her, but his emotions are a little clumsier than his hands. He glances back to the entrance. “Uhh, didn’t you see the sign?”

That’s a moment of lightheartedness in a story that otherwise descends steeply into despair.

This novel about an ancient burial ground that can resurrect the dead — with malevolent consequences — is the one King himself famously had reservations about sharing with readers. “I found the result so startling and gruesome that I put the book in a drawer, thinking it would never be published. Not in my lifetime, anyway.” King wrote in a 2000 introduction for the paperback. His wife, Tabitha, and editor convinced him otherwise, but the uncertainty has lingered, even though the book is sacred to many of King’s readers.

“I’m particularly uneasy about the book’s most resonant line… ‘Sometimes, dead is better,’” King wrote. “I hope with all my heart that that is not true, but in the nightmarish context of Pet Sematary, it seems to be. And it may be okay. Perhaps ‘sometimes dead is better’ is grief’s last lesson.”

It’s a lesson that Ellie’s father, Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) doesn’t care to learn. As a physician, defying death is his trade. And when he learns of a burial ground that can reverse things even after it’s too late, he becomes intoxicated by it.

“That’s what makes it more than a horror movie,” says Clarke. “I was like, ‘Where’s the horror? I’m disturbed.’ That was it for me, I found it insanely disturbing. reaches inside you in some way, he always does. There is great intellect and great subconscious and subtext and thought and reason behind it.”

Kerry Hayes/Paramount Pictures

Widmyer describes Louis as “a guy who thinks he has death figured out. ‘I see death every day, I work in an ER. Don’t tell me about death, I understand death.’ But he doesn’t understand death when it’s dropped onto his lap. He’ll do whatever he can to undo it. It’s sort of like the science world meets the supernatural world.”

Grief is the element that makes King’s story so terrifying. It’s not just an eerie, supernatural story, but a terribly sad one. Ellie shows us that through a child’s eyes, worrying about the well-being of her own cat.

“This book is about death and talking about death and grief, and the pet cemetery is the first stage of that,” says Widmyer. “It’s almost like by not communicating about death, the chain reaction of the entire movie happens.”

“Having a pet die is a way that a lot of kids learn about death, and how to deal with death for the first time,” adds Kölsch. “It kind of helps you accept death as a natural part of life.”

Pet Sematary examines what happens when a person refuses to accept that, choosing not to say goodbye, but clinging instead to the agony of the loss until the survivor’s life essentially ends, too.

Kölsch and Widmyer compare the rejuvenating burial ground to a gambling addiction for some of the characters. “Whenever you’re down, it’s kind of like, ‘If I go one more time I can just break even!’” Kölsch says. “That happens a lot in Pet Sematary. Instead of just accepting the loss, they’re always trying to double down — and it just keeps costing more life.”

Kerry Hayes/Paramount Pictures

No one imagines the loss that awaits this family, which includes mom Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and toddler brother Gage (played by twins Hugo and Lucas Lavoie), who has a habit of wandering too close to the busy country road outside their new home.

The sweetness of the Creeds is one thing that makes King’s story so unsettling.

“To understand why loss is so tragic, you have to understand why life is so beautiful,” Seimetz tells EW.

After discovering this ramshackle burial ground behind her family’s red-paneled colonial home, all Ellie can foresee is a day when she has to say goodbye to her own pet, Winston Churchill — or “Church” for short.

Jud tries to show her that the Pet Sematary is not a sad or angry place. It’s a place to remember happy memories. “I carved this myself,” he says, guiding her to the marker for his dog, “Biffer — A Helluva Sniffer,” written on two boards near the center of the circles.

“He could talk, you know,” Jud tells her. She wrinkles her face in doubt, and the old man leans his head back and howls, “Rooo Rooo ROOOOOW!” Suddenly, she’s smiling. For the first time.

It’s not much of a spoiler to say that the day of Church’s demise comes sooner than she thinks, and Jud’s affection for her and her family is what motivates him to show Louis the Mi’kmaq burial ground beyond the deadfall, where things that are gone can sometimes come back.

Below is an image of the resurrected Church, stinking of the grave, making Grumpy Cat look upbeat, and more closely resembling the hissing Maine coon originally depicted on King’s novel cover than the gray British shorthair who prowled the ’89 film.

Kerry Hayes/Paramount Pictures

“He really cares about this little girl,” Lithgow says. “That’s what this scene is about, the beginning of a connection. He can delight a child, and it’s a very interesting color to this dark man.… It gives a very genuine and human motivation to everything that happens in this genre horror film. And when that happens, when you really care about these people and you really believe in what motivates them, then the stakes go way, way up.”

While Gwynne’s Jud was a folksy old-timer, Lithgow’s is more isolated, unwanted, and unloved, yearning to find a place to belong again. In King’s novel, Dr. Creed comes to see his elderly neighbor as the father figure he never had. In this film, Jud is the damaged one healed by the embrace of a new family.

“He’s a loner, and he’s chosen to be alone,” Lithgow says. “His life changed. He was a man whose entire life was wrapped up with his marriage, his wife. And they didn’t have children, but they wanted children. In the script there’s this very simple and sweet line, ‘It didn’t work out for Norma and me. We wanted to keep ourselves to ourselves.’ You just know that was a really, really deep relationship. And the loss of that relationship has defined his life ever since.”

This is when Rachel, the frantic mom searching for her wandering daughter, turns up in the forest scene. She’s dismayed to discover not just this makeshift boneyard, but her daughter standing there with a grubby-looking stranger.

This is a departure from King’s book, which opens with Jud crossing the road to meet his big-city neighbors within minutes of their arrival at their new country home. In the novel, he also later leads the whole family on a hike to the Pet Sematary, where things turn sour with the mom — unexpectedly and quickly.

The arrangement is slightly different, but the result is the same. Her husband may form a familial bond with this man, but she is mistrustful from the start. The little graveyard has a lot to do with that.

“Rachel went through something extremely traumatic when she was younger with her sister, and she freezes up when death is talked about,” Seimetz says. “She doesn’t want to face it and doesn’t want her daughter to go through the same thing.

Kerry Hayes/Paramount Pictures

“Rachel wants her kid to have a childhood and not have to think about death like she did,” Seimetz adds. “It’s a hard topic for her to discuss. Not just because she wants to protect her kid, but also because she’s protecting some part of herself as well.”

Fans of the book and earlier movie will remember this sister well: Zelda, the twisted, agonized figure whose emaciated body was corkscrewed with spinal meningitis. The flashback to her grim, short life scarred readers and moviegoers almost as much as it did Rachel.

The filmmakers aren’t ready to reveal Zelda yet, but they give EW a hint of what’s to come. “It’s more accurate to the book, I’ll just say that,” Widmyer reveals. “In the original movie, it’s a 21-year-old guy in drag playing it, and in the book, as you recall, it’s a 10-year-old girl.”

Neither filmmaker is trying to demean the original movie. Zelda, as played by Andrew Hubatsek in director Mary Lambert’s earlier film, was one of the most chilling and memorable parts of that adaptation.

“You go, ‘How do you top Zelda?’” Widmyer says. “It was big and scary and awesome, but if you think about the reality of the Zelda situation, what that would do to a family, with her wasting away in this bedroom, and a younger sister being frightened of her older sister’s debilitating illness, that on its own is pretty scary.”

They are hoping “the grounded nature of that horror would actually be scarier than a supernatural version of it,” he adds. “The nurse, the medical equipment, what that room would feel like as a layer of dust went on everything.” He says their film will show “how that would seem from the perspective of an 8-year-old, going into that room to bring food to her, and how scary that would be.”

Kerry Hayes/Paramount Pictures

The filmmakers, pictured above in the living room set of Jud’s house, say Pet Sematary will also introduce a new take on Victor Pascow (played by Obssa Ahmed), a college kid struck by a car who dies in Dr. Creed’s care in the emergency room. Since the doctor tried valiantly to save him, the spirit of Pascow appears repeatedly to be a kind of supernatural conscience.

“We have this very normal student, but the voice that’s speaking through him is an ancient voice trying to warn him,” WIdmyer says.

The voice that ultimately pulls the doctor toward the resurrection ground is Jud himself, who thinks he will be helping the family alleviate their pain after the untimely death of their cat. He has no idea he will end up creating more anguish.

When Rachel leads her daughter away from the cemetery in a huff, Ellie cheerfully tells her mother, “He pulled the bee stinger out. It was a big ‘un!”

Her mom barely looks back as they hurry away. They leave Jud in the Pet Sematary. Alone again. But their mutual paths have already been set.

Once they’re gone, the old man looks back to the deadfall, as if he hears a voice calling to him.

He’s thinking about second chances. And the kind that shouldn’t be.

type
  • Movie
Genre
  • Horror
release date
  • 04/05/19
director
  • Kevin Kölsch,
  • Dennis Widmyer
Performers
  • Jason Clarke,
  • Amy Seimetz,
  • John Lithgow
Studio
  • Paramount Pictures
Complete Coverage
  • Pet Sematary (2019 movie)

Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Bitterness in leaf lettuce is a common problem among gardeners, caused by a lack of moisture in the soil and high temperatures. Head lettuce was developed to remove the bitter taste from lettuce, but in doing so the lettuce lost most of its flavor and nutritiousness. In contrast, leaf lettuce is a good source of beta carotene and a moderate source of fiber and carbohydrates. Leaf lettuce is characterized by leaves grown from the stem, rather than in tightly packed heads. The lettuce is most commonly found as red leaf, green leaf and oak leaf varieties.

Rinse loose lettuce leaves thoroughly under cold running water. Immediately place the head of lettuce in the crisper. Do not store with fruits, which can spoil the lettuce.

Remove the leaf lettuce from the crisper after 48 hours. Rinse the lettuce again in cold water. Most of the bitterness should be gone.

Remove the outer leaves. Cut off the root and tips of the lettuce. This is where the rest of the bitter flavor lies. Place the leaves in a salad spinner to remove excess water. Toss and serve, as desired.

Tip

Submerge limp leaves in ice cold water to revive.

Freshly cut lettuce leaves wilt quickly; do not cut until you are ready to serve. Dressing increases the speed of wilting as well; wait to toss until directly before you serve.

Warning

Lettuce cannot be frozen, canned or dried. Purchase and use before it spoils.

Lettuce with spots or slime should be thrown away; those are signs of decay and mold.

Whenever I have a head of lettuce that’s over-grown, bitter, or end-of-season, I try to work with it’s woodiness instead of disguise it. A delicate salad would only highlight its toughness, so instead why not use it as a wrap? Or, you can marinade it with a rich dressing. Treat it as you would chard or kale. This bundle of thick romaine made great little “tortillas.” I flattened the leaves, removed the centre rib, then spread a layer of creamy pumpkin seed cheese (recipe here). Top with whatever crunchy vegetables you like. I used homemade sauerkraut, shredded kholrabi, and a little of the cooked spaghetti squash you see in the back. Season with salt and pepper – my brother gifted me black Icelandic sea salt from his latest adventure – and roll up the leaves. Tuck the edges under and place close together on a plate so they keep their shape. If you want to use chard leaves instead of lettuce, give them a good massage after removing the centre rib. Soaking them for an hour in a little lemon juice + water also helps. Or, be bold and just eat them raw. Dishes like this are supposed to be no-fuss. So, “cutting corners” is often healthier – appreciating food in its most natural state.

Lettuce is one of the easiest things to grow in hydroponics. You have taken up the challenge and nurtured your seeds into germination and transferred them to your hydroponics system. You have your first harvest washed and sitting in the salad bowl, but something isn’t right.

Why is my hydroponic lettuce bitter? Lettuce might be one of the easiest things to grow hydroponically. However, if you have either a nutrient-rich solution, a growing environment which is too hot, or your lighting setup isn’t at its most optimum, you will get bitter lettuce.

Do you want to grow lettuce which is full of flavor and has no aftertaste? Do you want to know what is causing it, what you can do to resolve the problem, and is it too late to save your current batch of lettuce? Find out with the answers to the questions below.

Why Does my Hydroponic Lettuce Taste Bitter?

With Hydroponics, you have full control over growing conditions, and because of this, it means there are no outside influences so you can narrow down where to start looking. The first area to check will be your nutrients.

Lettuce doesn’t require too many nutrients to flourish. So, if your mix is too rich, it can lead to the bitter taste you have experienced. Although flushing your system is not vital to grow tasty lettuce, it can help improve flavor and remove the bitter taste.

System flushing can be more critical in ebb and flow systems. These continually fill with nutrient-rich water, and then once they drain they begin to dry out. It is during the drying process when mineral salts and nitrates start sticking to everything, including the roots of your lettuce. Veteran hydroponic growers recommend flushing a system before harvesting, even though it isn’t necessary.

Flushing the Hydroponic System

It is these nitrates and mineral salts which can be the most significant cause of bitter tasting lettuce. Flushing depends on the type of hydroponic system you are using. The first thing to do is drain all the nutrient solutions from your tank. Once you have emptied the system, you then need to proceed by rinsing your tanks and hoses with plain water.

If you have a nitrate-rich nutrient mix, you will need to rinse the system two or three times. Once done, you then need to adjust your pH levels to 6.0. Both pH Up and Down plus a Testing Kit can be found online from Walmart, or they will be available from your local hydroponic supplier.

Now, you should leave your system to run for a few hours. If it is the last flush before your lettuce harvest, you can let the plain water run through your system for up to one week.

After doing this, you need to drain the system again and thoroughly rinse your hoses. You should also flush the sides of your tank and check for any buildup or debris. If there is debris, or your system doesn’t appear to be as clean as it should. Then fill the system with your pH adjusted water, rerun your system for a couple of hours, and then finally drain the system.

Any algae or nitrate buildup needs removing, and all sides of the tank wiped. Hoses need cleaning inside, as far as you can reach. Once done, mix a new batch of your nutrient solution while checking it isn’t too rich for your lettuce. Once done, refill your system and let it run.

Items for Flushing the System

Here are some of the things you will need when you flush your system.

  • Hydroponic nutrients
  • Water pH testing kit
  • Chemical water adjusting kit
  • Buckets and hoses

Heat Can Cause Lettuce to Taste Bitter

Lettuce is a cool weather plant. If the air temperature rises over 75F (24°C), your lettuce begins producing chemicals for flowering and producing seeds. It is this which can be one of the causes of for the bitter taste depending on the location of your hydroponics system and your region. This will determine how you can control the temperature of your growing environment.

To be accurate in your temps, it is worth investing in a Digital Hygrometer Indoor Thermometer. You can then periodically check your temperatures and humidity. If you are growing inside a greenhouse, there is one mistake many people make, and that is to shade the plants. Shading, unfortunately, isn’t the answer and you should be looking at ventilation or a form of cooling.

Evaporative cooling is the best option and can be from either a fan and wet-pads system, a low-pressure misting system or high-pressure fog system. All these should be used in conjunction with mechanical or natural ventilation. As a last resort a shade curtain can be used, but for no more than up to four hours and only during the hottest part of the day.

Incorrect Lighting Can Make Lettuce Bolt and Taste Bitter

If you are growing indoors and using artificial lighting, then things can be easier to control. Generated heat comes from your lighting, and the worst culprits being HID (High-Intensity Discharge) growing lights. You can help combat this if you see the overall room temperature is increasing.

You can place your lights inside an air-cooled reflector where the coolest air possible is ducted to the reflector, and then vents from inside your room via insulted ducting to prevent heat transferring back inside and affecting the ambient temperature.

You have seen, heat generated from grow lights raises the temperature of indoor grow rooms. There are three basic elements included in this section. One, the lights are not the best type and produce too much heat. Two, the length of time your grow lights are turned on is too long, and there is little or no adjustment of lights when required. Finally, the best bulb or tube type isn’t being used.

The positioning of lights can be the quickest variable to resolve, and no matter what artificial lighting method you are using, light sources should be around 4-6 inches above your plants. As they grow, the distance needs adjusting to maintain this gap. Because lettuce is a fast grower, it is crucial to keep a constant check on their progress so you can manage the optimum growing distance.

Light Quality Affects the taste of Lettuce

For lettuce to grow successfully, it requires a minimum of 12 hours of light. The ideal amount of light for most plants is 14 – 16 hours. If your growing location makes use of natural light, this needs to be used in your calculation for how long you will be using grow lights. Winter time has fewer sunlight hours, and this means you will be using your grow lights for longer. If you either leave them on too long or even forget to turn them on at the correct time, it plays havoc with your plants growing schedule.

The final element is the type of grow lights you are using. There are a few types to choose, and these include LED grow panels, HID lamps and Fluorescent tubes. LED’s are finally catching up and require further discussion which leaves HID and Fluorescent.

HID grow lights are the lighting type which generates lots of heat. These are recommended for more experienced users and are the lighting types which require cooling. Fluorescent tubes are more suited to growing lettuce because they run much cooler, but even differences in these lighting tubes can affect the growth of lettuce.

T5 fluorescent tubes are the best choice over T8 or T12 tubes, even though they require different fittings. They also give off more heat than these other varieties, but allowing for this, it is the Kelvin rating which can be a reason you are finding bitter tasting lettuce.

T5 fluorescent grow lights are the most efficient of all fluorescent tubes. However, tubes with a 6500 Kelvin rating deliver a full spectrum of light, which is excellent for overall growth. Lighting tubes with a 3000 Kelvin rating produce more red spectrum light which helps encourage flowering or bolting too early.

How Can I Get the Bitter Taste Out of Leaf Lettuce?

It can help to separate the leaves and put them in a bowl of cold water with a pinch of baking soda. Soak for ten minutes, rinse and soak again in plain water. Drain and serve. You can also use a salad crisper, or place the lettuce leaves in the refrigerator overnight.

What is the best lettuce variety to grow hydroponically?

Many growers choose leaf lettuce (Lactuca Sativa) along with the Tom Thumb variety. The Tom Thumb variety is easy to handle and grows large enough for one head to be enough for two people. Romaine lettuce, on the other hand, takes longer to mature, so it could be more prone to becoming bitter.

How long does hydroponic lettuce take to grow?

Nearly all varieties of lettuce can be grown in a hydroponic system. Leafy lettuce varieties are the recommendation because they can grow to harvest in half the time of head varieties of lettuce. When conditions are right, you can expect to be harvesting lettuce in three to four weeks.

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About the Author

Oscar Stephens I am a gardening and tech enthusiast! Stumbling across the world of Hydroponics, Aquaponics and Aeroponics by accident I’ve decided to create TheHydroponicsPlanet to put all of the best information I can find in one easy to navigate place. I’ll continue to add more content as I discover new things!

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Bitter Tasting Lettuce – Why Is My Lettuce Bitter?

You waited until the last spring frost and quickly sowed the seeds for your lettuce bed. Within weeks, the head lettuce was ready to be thinned and the loose leaf varieties were ready for their first gentle harvesting. Nothing tastes better than crisp lettuce straight from the garden. Soon, spring passed, summer heat arrived, and gardening websites like this one are inundated with questions: Why is my lettuce bitter? Why does lettuce turn bitter? What makes lettuce turn bitter? Is there any help for bitter tasting lettuce?

Common Causes of Bitter Lettuce

Most gardeners will tell you that bitter lettuce is the result of summer heat; lettuce is known as a cool season vegetable. When temperatures rise, the plant snaps into maturation mode and bolts — sends out a stalk and flowers. It’s during this process that bitter lettuce is produced. This is a natural process that can’t be stopped, but it isn’t the only answer to what makes lettuce bitter.

Too little water can also cause bitter lettuce. Those large, flat leaves need a large amount of water to remain full and sweet. Brown leaf edges are a sure sign that you lettuce is thirsty either from lack of water or root damage from close cultivation. Water regularly and well. Don’t let the bed become bone dry.

Another answer to why does lettuce turn bitter is nutrition. Lettuce needs to grow fast. Without proper nutrients, growth becomes stunted and bitter tasting lettuce is the result. Fertilize regularly, but don’t get carried away. Some studies suggest that bitter lettuce can also be the result of too much nitrogen.

Lastly, aster yellows phytoplasma, commonly called aster yellows, is a disease that can cause bitter lettuce. With this infection, the interior leaves lose color and the outer leaves become stunted. The whole plant can become deformed.

Why is My Lettuce Bitter and What Can I Do About It?

Most likely, your bitter lettuce is the result of the maturation process. There’s no way you can completely stop Mother Nature, but there are ways you can delay the result.

Mulch your lettuce to keep the roots cool and fool the plant into thinking its still spring. Interplant your lettuce with taller crops to provide shade as the weather warms. Succession planting will also help extend the season.

If you think nitrogen might be the cause of your bitter tasting lettuce, add a small amount of wood ash to your soil.

Some people have found it helpful to soak their bitter lettuce prior to using. If you would like to give this a try, separate the lettuce leaves, put them in a bowl of cold water and add a small amount of baking soda. Let the leaves soak about five to 10 minutes, rinse thoroughly in cold water and then soak them again for a few more minutes. Drain and use.

You can also try refrigerating the bitter lettuce for 24-48 hours before serving.

Note: Although the biggest cause for bitter lettuce is temperature, along with the other possible reasons listed above, additional factors such as one’s region, current growing conditions and even variety can all play a role in the bitterness of lettuce plants.

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Do you have lettuce that’s gone bitter? Don’t throw it out! Here are some tips for using bitter lettuce.

Lettuce is one of the easiest plants to grow in the garden (or containers), but it’s also easy for it to go from sweet and juicy to bitter very quickly.

As someone who tends to neglect the garden, I know all about bitter lettuce. The sub-tropical climate doesn’t help this cool climate-loving plant either.

But if I’m going to go to the trouble of planting and tending it, I’m not going to waste the darn stuff!

If you can prevent your lettuce from going bitter, all the better. But if it does bolt there are some things you can do to minimise the bitterness.

What Causes Lettuce to Go Bitter?

There are several situations that can cause lettuce to go bitter. Heat is one. Water stress is another. Lettuce likes a regular feed – nutrition stress will also turn it bitter.

However, too much nitrogen is not much good either. Which is ok – that means less work. An occasional feed is sufficient.

The other factor is age – the older the plant the more bitter it grows. I like to pick just a few leaves off here and there for my salad, but eventually, you have to pick the whole plant or let it go to seed because the older it gets, the less palatable it becomes.

Preventing Bitter Lettuce

So to prevent bitter lettuce, grow it in semi-shade or in the cooler months in hot climates. You can also choose varieties that are best suited to your climate. Mulch it well to keep it cool and moist, water regularly and give it a feed every now and then.

There are also some tricks to picking lettuce to minimise the bitterness.

Pick your lettuce in the morning after it’s had the night to recover from the hot sun. Giving it a bit of water in the evening will also help. Immerse your leaves in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes or so, then dry and place in the fridge for a few hours.

The other tip is to wait until after it rains to pick your lettuce. Lettuce can go from bitter to sweet after a good shower (unless it’s really old). There’s nothing like real rain for the garden – tap water just isn’t the same.

What to do with Bitter Lettuce

If all else fails, you can cook your lettuce, which helps remove the bitterness. I find that when cooking lettuce, rather than eating a plate full of bitter greens, it’s better to mix it up with something sweeter, like spinach or silverbeet.

Some mixed wilted greens with mushrooms and another veg (there’s asparagus in the picture) served under a scrambled egg for breakfast is a lovely way to enjoy lettuce that’s past its prime, without letting it go to waste.

So if your lettuce is going bitter, don’t throw it in the compost just yet. See if you can revive it and if not, cook it. There’s life in those greens yet.

What’s your garden rescue story?

Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.

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  • I often hear people say that lettuce can only be grown in the spring or fall because it would become bitter in the heat of the summer. This isn’t true at all! You can actually grow lettuce all summer long and I have completed some research and experiments of my own with great success!

    So how do you avoid growing bitter tasting lettuce in your garden? Keep your lettuce in a cool place, out of the hot sun to prevent it from bolting quickly and becoming bitter.

    This is a very straightforward and general answer but I have a lot of tips to follow and methods that I use in my own garden to have fresh lettuce all summer long! First, let’s learn some causes of lettuce bolting and becoming bitter and then we will learn some ways to prevent it.

    What Causes Lettuce to be Bitter?

    Understanding the causes of lettuce becoming bitter will help you to prevent it from happening altogether.

    In case you aren’t familiar with the term “bolting”, it is when a plant grows quickly, stops flowering, and produces seeds. This generally happens at the end of the plant’s life cycle or when the plant becomes too stressed.

    Without a doubt, lettuce is a cool season crop. It will continue to produce its leaves for multiple harvests as long as the plant is healthy and kept at cool temperatures.

    Lettuce will bolt and become bitter any time the plant feels like it is stressed. God created plants in a way that they will reproduce on their own by producing seeds. Once the plant gets stressed, it goes into survival mode. It says, “Uh oh, something isn’t right here and I need to put all my energy into producing seeds so I can thrive again next season!”.

    Here are some common reasons that cause your lettuce to bolt and become bitter:

    • Heat stress. Since lettuce is a cool season crop, the summer heat will cause the plant to mature and start producing flowers and seeds instead of producing leaves.
    • Poor soil. Lettuce has shallow and fairly thin roots so it needs loose soil and good drainage, otherwise the plant will become stressed and start to bolt.
    • Nutrient deficiency. Like any plant, without the proper nutrients, it is not going to grow very well. Lettuce is a fast growing vegetable and if its growth is stunted in any way it is likely to bolt.
    • Under watering. Lettuce leaves are full of water! Without enough water, the leaves will wither or turn brown and cause them to become bitter. The more water in well draining soil the plant has, the sweeter your lettuce will be.

    Now that we know what causes lettuce to bolt and become bitter, it’s fairly easy to see how we can prevent this and grow ourselves some very healthy lettuce. Next, I’ll give you some tips on how I grow my own lettuce successfully all summer long – even when temperatures reach into the 80s and 90s.

    What are Some Tips to Avoid Growing Bitter Lettuce?

    Grow in partial shade. In order to keep lettuce cool, try growing it in a spot that gets some shade – preferably in the afternoon when the heat is more intense. If you don’t have a shady area, plant your lettuce around other taller plants that can provide shade, such as tomatoes or trellised crops.

    Grow in containers! This is a method that I use the most for lettuce. By growing in containers, the lettuce can be moved into the shade when needed, like next to a house or shed. I typically provide my lettuce with cooler morning sun and then keep it in the shade for the afternoon.

    Use shade cloth. You can build some supports around your garden and use shade cloth to block some of the sun from the plants. Different levels of shade cloth exist that you can buy depending on how much sun you want to block.

    Keep your soil healthy. Add an inch or two of compost to the top of your soil every fall to add back nutrients. Keep your soil covered with some type of mulch during the winter, such as shredded leaves, grass clippings, or wood chips.

    Keep your soil cool during hot temperatures. As I already mentioned, keep your soil covered with mulch! This will block the sun, keep the roots of your plants cool, reduce evaporation and retain more moisture in your soil.

    Water! It’s important to monitor the moisture level of your soil and water your plants only when necessary. This is especially important during a heat wave when plants need to be watered each day in the early morning or late evening.

    Succession planting. As mentioned, lettuce is a cool weather crop, so it is naturally going to last longer in the spring and fall. While it’s definitely possible to grow lettuce in the middle of summer with the methods described, lettuce is still going to bolt eventually and at a quicker pace than it would in cooler temperatures. I like to succession plant my lettuce so I always have a continuous crop. Every two to three weeks, we plant more lettuce from seed in a new container or spot in our garden. By the time one batch of lettuce bolts, we have another batch that is in the middle of its maturity and one that is just sprouting. The main picture at the top of this post is my own example of this in my garden!

    How to Remove the Bitterness from Lettuce

    If you have picked some lettuce and you realize it is bitter, you don’t necessarily have to throw it out!

    Some people have found that soaking the lettuce in water could remove some of the bitterness.

    Others suggest that the bitter lettuce can be stored in high humidity and in the coldest spot in the refrigerator for a few days. This could remove some of the bitterness.

    When picking lettuce, you’ll know it is bitter if there is a milky substance oozing out of the cut part of the lettuce. If this is the case, try picking your lettuce right away in the early morning. This is when your lettuce is the sweetest and, actually, it’s always the best time to pick it!

    Bitter lettuce can also be cooked! Find and use it in recipes that call for cooked spinach or kale and it will turn out great!

    “A person who is full refuses honey,
    but even bitter food tastes sweet to the hungry.”

    Proverbs 27:7

    What are Some Heat Tolerant Varieties of Lettuce/Greens?

    There some varieties of lettuce and other salad greens that you may find easier to grow during hot temperatures. Below are some ideas you can try in your area!

    • Paris cos romaine lettuce
    • Super red romaine lettuce
    • Ruby red leaf lettuce
    • Black seeded simpson lettuce
    • Most varieties of kale
    • Lucullus swiss chard
    • New Zealand spinach

    Check out Our Favorite Products page to find everything you might need to help make your garden a success!

    Related Questions

    Is it safe to eat bitter lettuce? While it may not taste that great, eating bitter lettuce will not cause harm in any way. No known toxins or issues are associated with eating bitter lettuce.

    How can I store lettuce to last longer? Wash the lettuce and then store it in a plastic bag or container. Layer the lettuce in between paper towels to help control moisture. Do not store the lettuce in the same drawer or area as apples, pears, or tomatoes because these fruits release ethylene gas, which can cause your lettuce to spoil.

    How do I know when to harvest my lettuce? Lettuce can be harvested at any time as loose leafed, cut and come again lettuce. Younger lettuce plants will have the best taste. Remove a few leaves from each plant by picking the leaves off at the base. Never remove more than one third of the leaves of a lettuce plant at one time.

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      • There’s nothing like the sweet taste of early spring lettuce. It’s always a disappointment when hot dry weather comes and causes bolting and bitterness.

        But don’t be in such a hurry to pull up your lettuce when that happens. There are some secrets to getting lettuce that’s tasty through mid July or longer.

        Batavia, Reine des Glaces, Red Sails, and Forellenschuss Lettuces harvested July 2nd.

        Several Immediate Things To Do

        • If lettuce is stressed by hot weather, pick early in the morning. It’s had the night to recover from the sun, so its life force will be the strongest.
        • To get that freshly harvested quality in any season, you should always have an ample size bowl of cool water with you in the garden. Immerse the lettuce in the water immediately after picking it.

        Note: The possible exception to this would be if you are harvesting heads of lettuce. I get the most out of my lettuce by grazing continually, never allowing it to head.

        • Pick new leaves. Old leaves tend to be stronger tasting.

        Water and cold can work miracles in restoring some of the sweetness to your lettuce in these two tips:

        • Let your lettuce soak in the water for about an hour after harvest. (Be sure you use water that is pure and not loaded with chlorine and chemicals.)
        • After gently washing and drying place in a plastic bag. Keep refrigerated for 24 to 48 hours before eating.

        Things to Do Before the Season

        • Make sure your soil has lots of organic matter. It feeds your lettuce and also retains moisture. (Good nutrients and water go a long way towards sweet lettuce)
        • Plant different varieties. Some lettuces take the heat better than others.

        Batavia lettuce at the end of a row with beans coming up next to it.

        A little spot of Forellenschuss lettuce at the end of a row.

        Try a few new varieties each year and find out what works best for you.

        Keep in mind lettuces that have a characteristically sharp, bitter flavor won’t be changed by anything you can do. Endive lettuce is an example.

        • Plant a little lettuce every week in the early spring. Some plantings will do better than others. But you won’t know which ones until the time arrives. (I call it backup.)
        • Mulch your lettuce. It keeps the soil temperatures cooler and helps retain moisture vital to sweetness.
        • Plant in various spots and include some spots of partial shade. (You’re gonna be amazed at how some of these will outshine the others.)

        Echinacia and a variety of lettuces at the end of a row in the garden.

        • Plant in the shade of your other vegetables. I plant lettuce between my tomatoes. If you trellis your cukes, plant lettuce where it will be shaded by the big cuke leaves.

        Deer Tongue lettuce planted between tomatoes.

        Assume Nothing

        And by the way, just because it’s bitter today — don’t assume that it will be bitter tomorrow. Here’s an example of what I mean:

        The rains stopped in late spring this year. To make matters worse, the temperatures were above 90 degrees. The lettuce didn’t like it! It was only the first of June and almost every variety I had was bitter.

        We waited 4 weeks before the rain came again. Only 1/2 inch, but it was amazing the difference it made in the lettuce. Two days later we had another 7/8 inch and the lettuce was as sweet as early spring. Here it is July and it’s still delicious.

        You can’t predict the weather. If you pull up things too quickly, you miss the opportunity to take advantage of good fortune.

        If It’s Too Far Gone to Eat in a Salad

        Use it as a cooked green. It’s delicious! I’ll give you an easy recipe in my next post.

        Other Posts on Lettuce:

        Lettuce – Eating Fresh Even After it Stalks?

        Lettuce – Favorites, Tips and Several Sources

        Lettuce – Spinning Like a Great Chef

        Lettuce – Plant in the Fall/Harvest for 3 Seasons

        Lettuce – A Teaser and Reminder

        Lettuce – Time to Plant

        Lettuce – Cold Frames and Voles

        All content including photos are copyrighted by TendingMyGarden.com

        Four Things To Do With Bolting Lettuce (can bitter lettuce make you sick?)

        The buds at the top of this tall lettuce stem are just forming.

        Can bitter lettuce make you sick? A good question, because when the weather gets too hot for lettuce – temperatures that are consistently above eighty degrees Fahrenheit – it bolts. That is, it grows a very tall stem which produces flowers (lettuce with yellow flowers is going to have bitter-tasting leaves), and subsequently, seeds.

        The conventional thing people do at that point is tear the lettuce plant out from the roots and toss it to the ground, or add it to their compost pile. But the answer to the question, “Is bitter lettuce safe to eat?” is, for probably at least 99% of people, yes!

        So unless you are desperate for fresh plants to add to your compost, there are other uses for lettuce that is bolting that will extend their culinary usability. Following are four.

        **1. Continue to harvest the leaves for salads.

        Most people turn up their noses at lettuce once it bolts, because the flavor turns bitter. However, the leaves can still be used in small amounts mixed in with sweeter vegetables in salads. In fact, some traditional cuisines are intentional about making sure the five flavors – sweet, salty, bitter, sour, spicy – are present at each meal. Bolting lettuce is perfect to provide a little bitterness.

        **2. Use it in green smoothies.

        While bolting lettuce is bitter, if you are used to mixing some of the stronger greens – such as kale, dandelion or cabbage – into your smoothies, bitter lettuce is actually much milder when blended with fruit and nuts or any kind of milk, sweet or fermented. I have even been blending part of the thick stems in, and they don’t seem to affect the smoothie flavor any more than the bitter leaves do.

        Here you can see the tall, thick stems of my red romaine lettuce that is growing.

        **3. Add the leaves to soup.

        If you fix a hot soup, add a few shredded leaves to it just at serving time. It will immediately wilt, making the leaves soft and tender, and add its nutrient content to the meal.

        **4. Let it go to seed.

        Saving seeds is a lost art that many gardeners are reclaiming. However, many more still ignore the skill and spend unnecessary money every year on seed packets.

        Lettuce is an easy plant from which to collect seeds. Let it flower, then after a few days the yellow blossoms will turn into white puffs, as dandelions do. (Did you know that lettuce is like a cousin-once-removed relative of dandelion? It actually comes from wild lettuce, a weed similar to prickly lettuce.).

        At that point, you have two choices. You can pick the puffs from the plants and store them in envelopes or plastic bags. Or, you can let nature reseed the lettuce by allowing the wind to blow the seeds where they will. If you don’t have too thick of a mulch cover on the ground, many of the lettuce seeds will land around the current lettuce crops and germinate without any help from you when the weather once again becomes right for lettuce growing.

        What about cross-pollination?

        I have heard that you’re only supposed to let one variety of lettuce go to seed at a time because cross-pollination can occur, but other sources say that the only cross-pollination danger is with wild lettuce, i.e., prickly lettuce (which I do have growing just inside and outside my garden, but about thirty feet away from the lettuce bed). I don’t worry about it; I just let them go to seed, drop to the ground, and get a never-ending crop of lettuce that I never again have to plant.

        Of course, when the seeds are all collected or scattered you want to remove the plants and add them to your compost pile.

        But as you can see, there are several other things you can do with bolting lettuce before that happens! Can you eat bolted lettuce? Now you know.

        Happy gardening,

        Emily

        P.S. – If you enjoyed this article, you may be interested in my book How To Grow Vegetables Without Losing Your Mind.

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