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lactuca sativa

Love Lettuces for Your Sweetheart

By Beet 2022 02 February

Prefer propagating to penning a love letter?  Instead of verses that aren’t quite flowing, get out and do some sowing!

Lay aside those lackluster letters and send your love a luscious bouquet of a dozen heirloom lettuces.  They’ll last much longer and taste far better than roses!


“Lettuce?” you ask.  Not just any lettuces, but the most spectacular crimson, brilliant emerald, speckled and other heirloom varieties grown from your own garden.  With varieties such as Merlot, Solar Flare, Trout Back and Outrageous Red, how could your sweetheart be disappointed?


Lactuca sativa, lettuce is the world’s most popular salad green.  Lac, the Latin root for “milk” appears in lactuca, its Latin name, and is derived from lettuce’s characteristically milky juices. In Old French, laitue means milky. In English, it became lettuce.


Today’s myriad types of cultivated lettuces likely descended from L. scariola, wild lettuces (prickly lettuce). Lettuce was originally farmed by the ancient Egyptians. Depictions of lettuce have been found on Egyptian tomb walls with Min, the male god of fertility, from around 2700 B.C.  Lettuce was served on the tables of Persian kings in 6th century B.C., praised by the Greeks and popular among the Romans not only to promote sexual stamina, but also to aid in digestion; they used the seeds’ oil for medicine and cooking.


Lettuce was transported by the Romans who introduced it to their subjects in Western Europe. By the 1400s, loose-headed lettuces had developed in Europe. Lettuce cultivation was substantial in France, Holland and Italy in the 1600s. American immigrants brought seeds they had cultivated with them.


Thomas Jefferson had 17 varieties of lettuce at Monticello. Many heirloom lettuces were developed in the US during the 1800s and later to accommodate the wide variety of growing conditions in the coldest to hottest areas. Many of those wonderfully colorful heirlooms were left behind for the more productive – but way less nutritious – varieties. Fortunately, heirloom lettuces have come back since the 1970s health craze.


In 2015, “Outredgeous” red romaine lettuce was even cultivated by astronauts on the International Space Station.  Now that’s reason enough for offering a lettuce bouquet to someone special!

Those vivid, leafy whorls are also worthy for offering value to our daily diets.  They are a rich source of vitamins K and A, and provide minerals and fiber for very little cultivation or preparation.  They also make a most spectacular salad presentation.  Just try doing that with roses!

Sowing your sweetheart’s salad bouquet early will gift them with your “Love Lettuces” before you know it.  Of course, including a little rich dark organic chocolate never hurts either…

Seed sources:

Baker Creek


Pinetree Garden Seeds


Territorial Seed Company


Seed Savers Exchange  [Cassandra, please cut and paste the web address and create the link. We couldn’t do it. Maxine & Lisa]



Sweetheart Salad

Serves 4-6

6-8 cups freshly harvested heirloom lettuce (mixed colors makes it more spectacular)

2 smaller or 1 medium organic tart apple (Pink Lady, Pinova, Honeycrisp), washed, cored, sliced in thin wedges then cut crosswise into julienne strips

½ cup organic dried cherries (cut in halves) or cranberries

1/3 cup pistachio nuts

2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Vinaigrette:  Mix the following ingredients together in a jar and shake well.  May be prepared ahead.

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons organic honey

zest of one organic lemon

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Gently toss salad ingredients together except for goat cheese and pistachios.  Pour half the vinaigrette and gently mix.  Use more if salad seems too dry.  Arrange salad on plates and sprinkle goat cheese and pistachio nuts on top.