A Tale of Two Lettuces

One lettuce, actually, the delicious heirloom butterhead  ‘Merveille des Quatre Saisons’.

lettuce 'Merveille de Quatre Saisons," popular since the 1880's

lettuce 'Merveille des Quatre Saisons," popular since the 1880's

Where winter temperatures drop into the teens and below, it’s only merveille in 3 saisons, but that’s still pretty good. It’s one of the first to head up after a spring planting. It stays nicely flavorful in summer, even after it starts to bolt, and it’s really stellar in fall: tender, juicy, sweet, beautiful – and disinclined to rot, even when the autumn is unusually rainy.

Merveille, also sold as ‘Continuity,’ isn’t as hardy as Winter Density or Brune d’Hiver, but the dense heads can take temperatures down to about 25 degrees if the cold has come on slowly.

And, of course, if heads are what you have. The lettuce itself is very obliging but it does need room to grow. The end of the row escaped thinning somehow, with predictable results:

Five head lettuce plants, thwarted for lack of thinning

Five head lettuce plants, thwarted for lack of thinning

Those frills are  tasty enough in their way, but they’re so different from the blanched center of the fully formed head they might as well be a different lettuce entirely.

Photo note: For reasons unknown to me, most seed catalog photographs show a heavily ruffled rosette, the head barely formed or completely invisible, making the thing look like a leaf lettuce. It’s not. The head in my picture may be about to bust but at least it clearly shows you the possibilities.

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5 Comments »

  • Susan Scheid Said,

    That is the most beautiful head of lettuce I have ever seen. Am putting it on the list for next year’s garden!

  • pam Said,

    Gorgeous head of lettuce! I grow Speckled Bibb, which also produces beautiful heads in cool weather, but I often pick leaves as I need them for mixed lettuce salads and that works well too. That way I can grow more types of lettuce in my small garden, and each head doesn’t need quite as much room since the bottom leaves are being picked frequently.

  • Leslie, I’ve only recently discovered your blog and just wanted to let you know that it’s just a delight. This is indeed a gorgeous lettuce and you’re right – I’ve never seen a catalog photo that held a candle to yours! Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Leslie Said,

      Cindy, Pam, Susan

      Thanks for all those kind words; I’m delighted that the lettuce hit the spot! Coming to the end of the season always just about breaks my heart, but for once we have nice new romaines coming along and I’m hopeful that – with good protection – they’ll last until solstice ( if we don’t eat them all first).

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