In an effort to be more faithful about sharing variety-specific growing information on my garden selections, I occasionally feature remarkable varieties in their own posts. These posts are compiled on the VARIETIES page.
Many, many months ago (late April, to be exact), one of my Baker Creek Heirloom Seed orders arrived in the mail. I remember the day pretty vividly, actually. Several inches of incredibly wet and heavy snow had fallen overnight, and we woke up without any power (or heat). It wasn’t exactly the kind of spring day gardeners hope for as the calendar turns towards May, but by the time the mail came, our power was back on, the house was toasty again, and at least for the time being, it really didn’t matter anymore what it looked like outside because my seed order had arrived! As usual, the awesome people at Baker Creek had included a couple of free gifts with the dozen or so seed packets I had ordered, and one of those free gifts was a packet of Red Romaine lettuce seed.
The funny thing is, I had not planned on planting any lettuce at all at that point. With the still-fresh memory of storms and hot weather putting an early end to my lettuces last year, I had already steered my garden plans towards two kinds of spinach and called it good, so I tucked the packet of seeds in my stash and didn’t really give it a second thought.
That is, until September rolled around and I got the urge to fill in some of the newly emptied space in my garden with a few fall plantings.
The seed germinated quickly and it didn’t take long to have lush row of bright tender greens. As you can see, they only had the slightest hint of red at this point, but it did become more prominent as the plants matured, and by October, cooler overnight temperatures really seemed to intensify the color even more. Before I even tasted the leafy greens, I was in love with colors. The mix of vibrant greens and varied shades of red, purple, pink, and brown are perfect for the fall garden!
We had a near-perfect fall growing season this year, but we just didn’t have enough for the lettuce for form heads, so I harvested it in the “cut and come again” fashion. The flavor is outstanding: it is sweet and flavorful, without any trace of bitterness or a sharp bite. The leaves were tender and crisp – absolutely perfect for salads. I felt like I almost had to ration it out to make it last as long as possible!
As the temperatures really started to fall, the growth slowed down, but this lettuce definitely held its own right through the month of November. Morning after morning, I would walk past the garden on my way to scrape the car windows and head to work, thinking that this was probably the end of my poor frost-covered lettuce, but evening after evening I would return home from work to see the leaves standing crisp and tall, as if the frost had never happened. It even made a full recovery from being buried in our first snowfall for a day! I finally harvested all that was left the week before Thanksgiving, when our temperatures took a pretty drastic tumble (I’m guessing not even the best lettuce in the world would survive an overnight low of 2 degrees). Only the parsnips outlasted the Red Romaine in the garden this year!
I may have received my first packet of Red Romaine by chance, but I will definitely be adding this variety to my inaugural seed order next month (probably two packets, one for spring and one for fall). This one is a variety worth growing!
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