If you’re looking for a crisp, sweet lettuce that can be harvested as a baby lettuce or at its mature height of 12″ tall, look no further than Parris Island lettuce. This fast-growing, heirloom romaine lettuce is also more disease-resistant than other varieties, making it a favorite among gardeners. Read on to learn more about its history, characteristics, companion planting, and a recipe to try it grilled.
Named after the Parris Islands off the coast of South Carolina, Parris Island lettuce was developed by the USDA and Clemson University in the early 1950s. It is one of five romaine lettuces that “both brown less quickly after fresh-cut processing and are slower to deteriorate postharvest,” according to the USDA.
Unlike iceberg lettuce which grows into a head, romaine lettuce grows tall and upright with a distinctive center stalk or rib. Parris Island lettuce has medium to dark green leaves and a white center.
When it reaches maturity, Parris Island romaine lettuce will have a vase-shaped head. The leaves can grow to 12″ tall to use for sandwiches, or they can also be harvested early as baby lettuce for salads.
Whether you let them grow to their full height or harvest them early, Parris Island lettuce is crunchy with a mild buttery flavor. Some varieties of romaine lettuce tend to have a bitter taste, but that’s not the case with Parris Island. In fact, even after it bolts, or starts to develop flowers, it stays sweet longer than other varieties.
If you’re on a low-carb diet, romaine lettuce is a great substitute for bread. It’s sturdy and will stand up to pretty much anything you pile on top. Romaine lettuce can also be used as a chip substitute for dips.
Preparation and Storage
Because of the way commercial lettuces are grown, they are susceptible to higher instances of E. coli. To help keep you and your family safe, be sure to wash your lettuce thoroughly after bringing it home from the grocery.
To keep your Parris Island lettuce crisp longer, after washing and drying the leaves, wrap your lettuce in a paper towel and place it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. The paper towel will help absorb moisture and keep your lettuce crisp and flavorful.
Parris Island lettuce has one of the higher nutritional values in the lettuce family. It is low in sodium, fat, and carbs; and high in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, and in vitamins C and K.
Romaine lettuce also contains high amounts of iron, making it helpful in lowering the risk of anemia.
It’s also safe to offer when introducing your baby to vegetables. You can even give it as a treat to your 4-legged friends.
Growing Your Own
Parris Island lettuce can be direct-sown in your garden, but it does best when started indoors and transplanted.
Romaine lettuce is a cold-season crop, meaning you can plant it earlier in the spring than other items in your garden.
A heavy-duty seed starting tray will help your Parris Island lettuce develop a good root ball for more successful transplanting. Start your seeds indoors about four weeks before the average last frost date.
If you want to direct-sow your seeds, you can do so as early as two weeks before the last frost date and as late as six weeks before the first frost date in the fall.
Whether you choose to start your seeds indoors or out, make sure your garden rows are about 3′ apart with 1′ between the plants. This gives your Parris Island lettuce plenty of room to grow and ensures a bountiful harvest.
The good thing about lettuce is that it’s pretty easy to grow. Just make sure it has adequate water and fertilizer. To take the guesswork out of how much fertilizer to use, try using a siphon mixer that hooks directly to your water supply.
For fresh Parris Island lettuce all summer long, be sure to sow new seeds every 2-3 weeks.
When planning out your garden, be sure to consider which plants grow well together and which ones don’t get along so well.
Plants that grow well with Parris Island lettuce include root crops like carrots, onions, and beets. Lettuces don’t have a very deep root system, so they don’t compete for space with these types of vegetables.
To help repel garden pests like aphids, plant garlic and chives between your rows of lettuce.
Calendula and nasturtiums attract slugs and aphids that will kill your plants. Be sure to plant them a short distance away to attract these pests and keep them away from your lettuce. As a bonus, the petals of both flowers are edible. Try adding them to your salad of freshly picked Parris Island lettuce for a fun pop of color!
You can start harvesting your Parris Island lettuce when it’s just a couple of inches tall to be used as baby lettuce in salads.
Waiting until the plant reaches about 12″ tall will produce leaves for recipes and sandwiches.
When it’s time to harvest your plants, you can pull the whole plant up by the roots, give it a good wash to remove all the dirt, and it’s ready to go.
To harvest your lettuce so you can get a second growth, simply cut the plant off about an inch above the soil.
Romaine lettuce is probably best known for its use in Caesar’s salad.
If you just can’t get past the thought of anchovies in your salad dressing, try this salad with a vinaigrette dressing and no fish!
Or, for a completely different way to eat your Parris Island lettuce, try grilled romaine.
Where to Buy Parris Island Lettuce Seeds
To grow your own Parris Island romaine lettuce, purchase your seeds from Hoss. All of their seeds are non-GMO and constantly tested for the best performance and highest yields.
Easy to grow, disease-resistant, great taste, and nutritious! Romaine calm and add Parris Island romaine lettuce to your garden next year. For more information on other lettuces to grow and add to your salad, check out our lettuce page.
- About the Author
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Melissa Goins is a wife, mom, grandma to three beautiful grandbabies, and a writer for Minneopa Orchards. She is a lifelong resident of Indiana and currently resides on a 15-acre homestead with her family where she enjoys gardening, canning, and running a produce stand that is known for its many varieties of tomatoes.
Growing up, her parents always had a large garden and Saturdays during the summer were spent preserving the harvest. Now, four generations work in the garden and preserve the harvest together.
Melissa loves trying new methods of growing and preservation, and varieties of fruits and vegetables in the garden — which is why she loves writing for Minneopa Orchards. From growing Cherokee Purple tomatoes to the best way to preserve carrots, there’s so much to learn, enjoy, and share while getting dirt under your fingernails.