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Hold Some Lettuce: How to harvest lettuce and cabbage

Hold Some Lettuce: How to harvest lettuce and cabbage

I just love how the sun is kissing my garden in this photo. It's so peaceful.

I just love how the sun is kissing my garden in this photo. It’s so peaceful.

Every Fall, I have a hard time getting used to growing lettuce and cabbage after a summer of growing tomatoes and okra.  Instead of laboring for the fruit on the plant, you labor for to the plant itself.  Because of this, harvesting the produce differs.  The hard fact for a winter gardener is, for the most part, each plant only offers one harvest.

There are several ways, however, to cheat and maximize each plants productivity.  Sure, you may not be able to partially harvest a turnip or beetroot, but harvesting their leaves and the leaves of other greens, like lettuce and cabbage, are much more flexible.

Get an early meal on lettuce and greens like kale and turnips by collecting the mature outer leaves and allowing the younger heart to keep growing.  The outer leaves can become too mature if left on the plant too long, but a discrete eye can avoid that.

Fresh Mustards…mmmmm. These are fantastic in salads! Not all mustards are as mild as this variety, Mizum Mustard. Just any mustard will not work, but all mustard greens are fabulous if prepared correctly.

Fresh Mustards…mmmmm. These are fantastic in salads! Not all mustards are as mild as this variety, Mizum Mustard. Just any mustard will not work, but all mustard greens are fabulous if prepared correctly.

I like to start on one end of a row of lettuce and work down every day, then starting over several days later. This provides many prime leaves, perfect for salads.

Rows of plants give me a little order in my life of managed chaos!

Rows of plants give me a little order in my life of managed chaos!

 

Once the head matures or just before a hard freeze kills the plants, complete the harvest by cutting the whole head at ground level, or of course, pull the whole plant up with turnips or the like.

Cabbage is a different story.  The outer cabbage leaves are worthless to eat, but have another purpose.

When cutting the cabbage head, (which incidentally should be a large and firm), leave a few loose outer leaves on the base.  This allows the stump to continue to grow and produce several smaller cabbage sprouts.  These sprouts grow to be 3 or 4 inches in diameter and are tender and tasty.

How beautiful is cabbage? I just love that it stays green for so long in the winter here in Alabama when everything around is brown.

How beautiful is cabbage? I just love that it stays green for so long in the winter here in Alabama when everything around is brown.

Using these two techniques, a winter garden can be similar to a summer garden.  As the greens grow, they will provide a substantial first harvest for the table.  Give your hard-spent garden more than one mow-over this season, and prepare to give the salad fork a lot of use.

If you have turnips in your garden or really any greens and want to know how best to clean them, go here.

2 responses to “Hold Some Lettuce: How to harvest lettuce and cabbage”

  1. db says:

    One of the few benefits (to me at least, not a fan of it still) of living in Florida, agricultural zone 10A, is we can cut our lettuce off an inch or two above the ground level, and it will grow back, yielding a second, and sometimes third growth to harvest. And if we selectively harvest with the methods you mentioned, we can have lettuce until the spring heat arrives, making the plants bolt…so we can save the seeds for next season 🙂

    Personally, I’d rather have four seasons, instead of two. We plant our cold weather crops in November, and can harvest until March or April.

    As always, thanks for the good read!

    • Stacy Harris says:

      Hi there! It is great to hear from you. Thanks for your tips! It is crazy how we are mostly able to grow lettuce all year long. I actually have been growing it all this year. It does look a lot better now though. I love that you save your seeds. Many folks don’t and if you get GMO seeds, most of the time you can’t. I would like to have 4 seasons as well, but am thankful like you that we do get so much warm weather. Thanks for your comment. Keep them coming. Stacy

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