Little Gem lettuce, sometimes referred to as Baby Gem lettuce, is a lettuce variety quickly gaining the popularity it deserves. The adorable small heads of lettuce are the perfect size for snacking, making salads, and adding a bit of pizazz to your dinner table.
With unique features, lots of health benefits, and plenty of ways to incorporate this variety into your kitchen – keep reading to find out why you should add Little Gem lettuce to your next grocery list!
History of the Little Gem Lettuce
The exact origins of Little Gem lettuce are unknown, but it’s widely believed that the vegetable is native to France. Although the timeline of Little Gem lettuce is also uncertain, this variety was most popular in Europe before making its way to the United States. The early 20th century is the first known appearance of this variety in seed catalogs.
Although around for longer, the popularity of Little Gems in the United States has skyrocketed in the past two decades. This variety has started appearing much more frequently in both grocery stores and restaurants.
Little Gem is a cross between romaine and butter lettuce. The soft, sweeter notes of butter lettuce mix with the crisp and fresh notes of romaine to create this unique variety. The appearance of Little Gems looks just like a mini romaine lettuce, with an average height of five to six inches and an average width of three to four inches.
Unlike romaine lettuce, this variety doesn’t have a tendency to be bitter, it instead captures the slight sweetness of butter lettuce. Leaves are a darker green at the top, and the center has crisp, pale green leaves similar to those of romaine hearts.
Eating Little Gem Lettuce
Little Gem lettuce is a phenomenal addition to your kitchen. Once you add it to your grocery list, you’ll never go back! This versatile lettuce variety is great for eating fresh in salads or as a vessel for dips and spreads. For a twist on common uses for lettuce, try grilling or frying your Little Gems!
Little Gems are great for reducing food waste – there isn’t much to trim off or remove from the lettuce heads, and the small size means more of each vegetable gets used. This variety also holds up well in the fridge – properly stored Little Gems can last up to ten days. A sealed plastic bag is the best way to ensure maximum shelf life.
Cooking With Little Gem Lettuce
The most common way to use Little Gem lettuce is by slicing it in half and drizzling the leaves with your desired toppings and dressing of choice. The small size of the lettuce makes it great for an individual serving size, and the presentation of slicing the lettuce heads in half can give your salad a fun new display.
For a burst of inspiration, check out this recipe for Little Gem Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese and Herb Dressing.
Want to try something a bit more light? This recipe for Little Gem Salad with Garlicky Almond Dressing is sure to satisfy your taste buds!
Apart from being great for salads, the leaves of Little Gem lettuce are large and durable, which make them a great option to use for little wraps. Try this recipe for Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps to experience the magic for yourself!
Little Gem lettuce is low in calories and high in vitamins A, C, and K. Vitamins A and C help the body with growth, development, and immune system health. This variety is exceptionally high in Vitamin K, which helps with blood clotting and promotes bone health and strength.
This lettuce variety also contains notable levels of folate, calcium, magnesium, and iron.
Growing Little Gem Lettuce at Home
Little Gem lettuce requires full sun and is heat tolerant. Early spring or late summer is the best time to plant the Little Gem variety. When planting your lettuce, make sure to space your rows at least 12 inches apart and give each plant about 6 inches of space. Proper spacing allows air circulation, which promotes healthy and vigorous growth.
Requirements may vary by seed producers, so always make sure to check your seed packet for the best recommendation.
Seeds should be sown about a quarter inch into the soil. In about 5 to 10 days, your first seedlings will appear. Little Gem lettuce roots are rather shallow, so it is important to be cautious when moving the soil around lettuce that has already established roots. You don’t want to uproot your young plant!
The soil should be kept moist, but be careful of overwatering. Too much water can cause your lettuce to grow unwanted bacteria. It’s best to water your plants at the roots – overhead watering can also cause bacteria growth on wet leaves.
The Little Gem lettuce variety grows quickly and typically reaches maturity between 45 to 55 days. When harvesting your lettuce, it’s best to do so sooner rather than later. The later the lettuce is picked, the more likely it is to taste bitter and tough.
Where to Buy Little Gem Lettuce Seeds
Due to its increased popularity in recent years, Little Gem lettuce can now be found in most local supermarkets!
If you’re just looking for seeds, these Little Gem lettuce seeds from True Leaf Market are the easiest way to purchase trustworthy seeds that will make a great addition to your garden.
Little Gem Lettuce – A True Gem
Whether you’re new to Little Gem lettuce or have been enjoying it for ages, it’s no secret that this lettuce variety deserves a spot in your diet.
Want to learn more about different lettuce varieties? Check out our other blog posts for all things related to the lettuce plant!