Let’s be honest: nothing sounds less appetizing than food with the word “tongue” in it. But luckily, Deer Tongue lettuce defies all expectations set by its name—in fact, it’s actually one of the tastiest varieties of lettuce out there!
Let me tell you everything you need to know about this delicious plant, from eating it to cooking with it to growing it yourself!
Characteristics of Deer Tongue Lettuce
Let’s start by discussing the characteristics of Deer Tongue lettuce, including its appearance, taste, and plant traits!
The appearance of Deer Tongue Lettuce
Deer Tongue lettuce is thankfully named for its shape, not its taste! Deer Tongue leaves are a bit triangular in nature, but they start out wider at the base and taper to more of a pointed end.
Its leaves aren’t as crinkled as most types of lettuce, and its “ribs” aren’t as thick and sturdy. If you look at the plant, you can see why it’s named the way it is; the leaves definitely resemble a long tongue!
The Taste of Deer Tongue Lettuce
Deer Tongue lettuce has a unique flavor profile compared to other types of lettuce; rather than a mild, crisp flavor, it actually better resembles the flavor of the squash. It’s described as a “nutty” taste, with a hint of sweetness buried within. It occasionally has been described as carrying a hint of butter-like flavor, as well. A complex flavor for such a simple thing!
Oftentimes, the flavor can get a bit too strong in mature Deer Tongue lettuce, so many people recommend plucking the leaves in their youth for the best culinary experience.
Deer Tongue Lettuce Plant Traits
Deer Tongue is considered heirloom lettuce. It’s easy to grow and quite resistant to heat, so it’s a great choice for your garden if you live in an area where most plants might wilt beneath the harsh summer sun.
These plants have a very short period of time to maturity. Only 45 days! As long as you plant your seedlings after the final frost of the season, you should have no problems harvesting this lettuce in plenty of time before the first frost of the next season!
You don’t have to plant this lettuce in the spring; in fact, you could plant it in early fall and still reap a harvest before the first frost of winter. You just have to time your planting carefully!
When lettuce is planted at home, it tends to do better when started indoors and transplanted into the garden at a later date. You’ll want to start your seedlings about a month or so before you intend to move them into the garden. You mainly need to keep this timeline in mind if you’re planning to plant closer to the fall months.
Uses for Deer Tongue Lettuce
Most people don’t just snack on lettuce, but you’re more than welcome to nibble on these leaves if you like! You can always use this lettuce as your base for a side salad or as an extra pinch of healthy greens in your favorite smoothie. Just keep the flavor profile in mind when
Cooked dishes are where Deer Tongue lettuce really shines. You can use it to create a raw salad, of course, but there’s so much more you can do with this tasty lettuce! You can make Panzanella, different kinds of flatbreads, bruschetta, lettuce wraps, and more.
When Is Deer Tongue Lettuce in season?
As mentioned earlier, Deer Tongue lettuce typically comes into season either in mid-summer or late fall, depending on when you choose to start your seeds. You’ll likely be able to find it in grocery stores all throughout this timeframe, as well, but your best bet for knowing when you can obtain this lettuce is to grow it yourself.
Growing Deer Tongue Lettuce at Home
As I said, Deer Tongue is one of the hardiest lettuce varieties out there, which makes it a very gardener-friendly variety! Even if you’re a first-time lettuce grower, this variety shouldn’t be too difficult to grow yourself. So long as you carefully prevent weeds and properly fertilize your seedlings, your sprouts should thrive quite well in your garden!
There are plenty of benefits to growing this lettuce at home, but first and foremost is the fact that you’ll have the reassurance that you can always access fresh lettuce for your recipes. No trip to the store is needed—just stroll out to the backyard and harvest what you need!
When it comes to plants intended for consumption, there are extra factors you need to take into consideration. While you always want to keep an eye out for garden pests no matter what you’re planting, this needs to be much higher up on the list of priorities when you’re growing something you intend to eat. After all, the last thing you want to bring into your home is a pest-infested bundle of lettuce.
For the best pest prevention, I suggest using the Garden Pest Success Kit from Hoss Tools. It’s your best bet for fully ensuring that your lettuce isn’t touched by garden pests.
Deer Tongue lettuce also isn’t particularly resistant to disease, so keep an eye out for common lettuce diseases beginning to form, particularly downy mildew. There are ways to treat and control certain diseases in lettuce, but you need to catch them quickly!
Where to Buy Deer Tongue Lettuce Seeds
When buying lettuce seeds—or any type of seeds, really—online, you need to be careful about where you’re buying them from. Many online retailers aren’t reputable, and you could end up with a bad of seeds that don’t produce as many seedlings as they should.
If you want to be sure you’re receiving the best quality seeds possible, I suggest purchasing through Hoss Tools. They’re a trusted seed source, and while you’re there, you can pick up all the other gardening tools you need to have a successful harvest this year!
Final Thoughts on Deer Tongue Lettuce
Ultimately, choosing to plant Deer Tongue in your garden is one of the best choices you can make if you’re a salad enthusiast. It might just spoil you for other lettuces once you taste it, but hey, if you have a garden full of it, then why not indulge?
For more information on lettuce varieties, growing lettuce yourself, and more, check out our lettuce section now!
- About the Author
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Cassidy Eubanks is a proud Michigander, an avid reader, a lover of colorful gardens, and a writer for Minneopa Orchards.
After earning her bachelor’s in Creative Writing (partially through virtual learning, thanks to the pandemic), gardening gave her an excuse to get outside and get away from all the screens. With a particular love for decorating with colorful flowers, using herbs grown in her own garden, and finding creative ways to build big gardens in small spaces, Cassidy enjoys helping others learn about growing their own food, flowers, and trees through Minneopa Orchards!