I really like lettuce seed mixes, those packets that contain seeds of lots of different colors and shapes of lettuce. I’ve been planting them each spring for the past five or six years and I’m hooked. I’m not sure what took me so long. I used to pour over the lettuce section of seed catalogs, reading descriptions of each variety, admiring the pictures, trying to select a green and a red, a ruffled and a smooth, loose leaves and crunchy heads and all the best flavors. That’s a lot of seed packets and they translated into lots of lettuce, more than I really needed.
I’d gotten free gift packets of lettuce mixes over the years, most often with my Territorial Seeds order, but I’d never planted them, unreasonably biased toward my selections. Then in an open-minded moment I planted a row. The seeds were a range of whites and browns and the leaves that came up were a lovely array of dark and light greens and reds. As they grew, each leaf revealed its own distinct shape. Each time I checked the row there was another surprise.
As the leaves got big enough to add to a salad, I started thinning the row, gently pulling a selection of colors and textures and leaving the rest. They grew bigger, I did more thinning, made salads of bigger leaves, and the thinning/growing sequence continued until the last leaves standing had formed full heads, each one almost a salad by itself. The whole process was so much fun. And there was none of the waste that sometimes happened when I planted all the varieties I used to order.
Another part of the fun was figuring out just what varieties I was harvesting. Territorial Seeds has several lettuce mixes including London Springs, the mix that started me on this path. It includes Red Sails, Flashy Trout’s Back, Outredgeous, Hyper Red Rumple, and Bullet. I identified the named varieties from the catalog pictures and guessed about others. The description of another of Territorial’s mixes, Garden Heirloom Blend, contains names as well as details: “Redder Ruffled Oaks, a loose-leaf with red on green oak-shaped leaves; Devils Tongue, a romaine with green leaves overlaid in deep red; and Speckles, a tight bibb-like butterhead with lime green leaves splashed with bright red and brown.” Yet another of Territorial’s mixes, Wild Garden Lettuce, sounds very fun though identifying each variety would be a challenge. “This mix is a vast assortment of literally dozens of varieties, including selections of lettuce that remain unnamed and not available anywhere else other than in this unique mix. If you discover a certain selection that you are especially fond of, let a few plants go to seed, and save your own. Bred by Frank Morton, Gathering Together Farm.” I want to try it.
Lettuce grown from these mixes makes beautiful and delicious spring salads, combinations of colors and textures and subtly different flavors. Maybe I’ll find one variety in these mixes that I just have to have more of and will buy a single pack of that seed, but for now lettuce mixes work for me.