Baby Leaf lettuce can give your ordinary salad a pop of color and interesting textures to liven it up. If you’re looking for a vegetable that grows quickly and easily, then add this one to your list. Read on to learn all about growing and eating baby leaf lettuce.
What Is Baby Leaf Lettuce?
Baby Leaf isn’t a specific variety of lettuce. Instead, it’s a catch-all term for the “baby” version of all lettuce varieties. You can use lettuce seeds for any type and decrease the growing period. There is no branded Baby Leaf Lettuce.
The benefit of harvesting lettuce sooner is that you still get the same lettuce taste, but you get fun textures and colors.
Baby leaf lettuce is leafy but also has a crunch to it. It can bring out the flavor of salad dressings and make for a more memorable dining experience. The lettuce comes in a variety of colors, depending on the breed you’re growing. You can harvest red, purple, or green baby leaves.
Popular Varieties of Baby Leaf Lettuce
Ruby Red Leaf. This is an ideal lettuce if you live in a warmer climate. Ruby Red is one of the most heat-tolerant varieties of lettuce. It can be grown in the heart of summer and is usually the first lettuce crop to harvest. The outer leaves are a deep red, while closer to the core, the leaves turn a bright green.
Green Oakleaf. The Green Oakleaf baby leaf lettuce is known for having thinner, softer leaves. It can be a great option for people with sensitive teeth who can’t handle crunchier varieties. The leaves can be a mix of green, gold, and red.
Grand Rapids. The wide, extra-wavy, and light green leaves with curls at the end make this baby leaf lettuce variety look a lot like kale leaves. Grand Rapids lettuce is also known as loose-leaf lettuce. It’s known for growing in blossoming circles.
Aerostar. If you’re looking for a baby leaf lettuce that’s in the Romaine family, Aerostar is a great option. It has a darker green hue to it, and the leaves are long and narrow, like Romaine leaves. With its high resistance to mildew and firm texture, it’s one of the hardier baby leaf varieties out there.
Tamarindo. Tamarindo is a great option if you want purple leaves. The long, narrow leaf looks like an exclamation point and can make that kind of statement in your next meal. It grows in thick upright bunches that make it super easy to pick the leaves.
Growing Baby Leaf Lettuce
Lettuce is one of the easier vegetables to grow, which is why it’s so abundant. It does best in cool or temperate weather, less so in very hot or very cold environments.
Since lettuce has a fast harvest time, people in most climates can plant it during their fall or spring, and bear crops before the extreme weather of winter and summer come in.
You can grow lettuce in the ground or in trays indoors. Put a seed and a little bit of soil in a planting tray and set it near a window that gets full sun. Lettuce doesn’t need much space to grow, so it can grow to the baby leaf stage without needing to transfer outside.
Another unique option you can do with baby leaf lettuce is to grow it hydroponically. Hydroponics is the process of growing plants in water.
No soil is needed. With a hydroponics system, you can infuse the water with nutrients to adjust the pH level, place it by a sunny window, and give the lettuce plant everything it needs to sprout.
Harvesting is key to producing baby leaf lettuce. If you wait too long, your lettuce will be plain, old, mature lettuce. Since lettuce grows quickly, you’ll want to continually sow seeds and harvest every few weeks to ensure you capture prime baby leaf lettuce. Baby leaves can be ready for harvesting within forty-five days.
When the leaves start to look wavy and a little soft, that’s key that you’ve got baby leaves. Typically, once your lettuce leaves reach five inches tall, it’s a good time to harvest. Only cut off the outer leaves. Keep the center intact, as that can generate more leaves in the future.
Eating Baby Leaf Lettuce
We love baby leaf lettuce around here, but we admit it’s not something meant to be eaten on its own. It doesn’t have enough taste to be a standalone snack. And who munches on plain lettuce leaves anyway?
Jazz up your salads by throwing in different-colored lettuce leaves. Lettuce is very healthy, filled with Vitamins A and C as well as iron and folic acid. But be careful what you put on it.
Salad dressings can be high in fat and carbs, negating all of the vitamins and minerals found in the base. Use dressing sparingly and supplement it with some vinegar if you want a low-calorie kick.
Lastly, don’t try to cook the lettuce, as the fragile leaves will wilt in the heat.
Where to Buy Baby Leaf Lettuce Seeds
You can purchase baby leaf lettuce at most supermarkets. It’s sold pre-washed in plastic bags or containers in the refrigerated section of the produce aisle. Some markets may sell it loose with the other lettuce heads.
Seeds can be purchased in person from your local nursery or online. Check the lettuce variety, though, to ensure you get your preferred type of baby leaf lettuce.
Nobody Puts Baby Leaf Lettuce in a Corner
If you want to add colorful, texture-filled variety to your salad and your garden, baby leaf lettuce is an excellent choice. With its easy planting and fast harvest, you can be reaping what you sow in just a few weeks!
To learn more about different lettuce varieties and best practices for growing them, check out our lettuce hub for more information.