01 June 2013

Lettuce Prey

I've been updating some of the info pages on the wiki... writing down some of the initial info (with pictures) of some of the Lettuce varieties I'm growing for seed this Autumn. The aim is to record much better notes on the habits, uses and cultivation of the numerous Lettuce varieties I grow over time. We'll see how that works out. I'm notorious for forgetting to keep those things up to date. Usually I'll notice a bunch of interesting stuff while my hands are all muddy and I'm having too much fun in the garden to go inside, wash up, fire up the computer,... so my observations get abandoned by the wayside.

Some of you may remember that I had ideas some years ago of growing organic-quality Lettuce seed as a commercial enterprise, but those plans -- indeed the Lettuces themselves -- were brought to nought by the Great Drought of 2008-10. Well, I still like the idea, and, although rain has been a little scarce in the past couple of months1, I'm trying once again to build up my Lettuce seed stocks to the point where I can produce decently large quantities of seed. Summer is, as always, too hot, and many of the Lettuce varieties bolt to seed early from the heat and don't produce viable seed as a result. So early-Spring and Autumn are my best chance at growing Lettuce seed.

Some of the varieties are new to me: Malawi, Lital, Lavi and Vulcan. Seed was acquired from friends and barter, and started in late February, and the first-to-seed varieties are just producing flower spikes about now. Others are old friends: Forellenschluss and Cimmaron, but my current seed stocks are getting too old to be reliable, so in dire need of refreshing.

I do wish I'd had bed space for growing more varieties, but I don't so that's about as many as I can manage whilst maintaining adequate isolation distances between the varieties. I've also managed to stagger them in time where I've been forced to place different varieties rather closer together than I'd prefer, and, given that Lettuces are mostly self-pollinating, I think I'm pretty safe for keeping these varieties pure.

I do need your help though!  Can anyone help me identify this beautiful Lettuce? I thought it might be "Merveille des Quatre Saisons" ("Marvel of 4 Seasons" - and ancient French2 heirloom, famed for its ability to withstand a wide range of weather conditions and temperatures) but it doesn't form a head, which my online researches tell me MdQS does. Leaves are quite large and broad, rumpled, fleshy textured and delicious even when very mature. But I'm stumped for a variety name. Any ideas?

[1] ...and as I write this, it has started drizzling. Hooray!
[2] Who woulda guessed?

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