The lettuce we grow likely originated from wild lettuce (Lactuca serriola). Evidence that the Egyptians grew it can be found in wall paintings and tomb reliefs that date back to 2680 BC. People have been using it medicinally through the ages.
The Romans called lettuce lactuca (lac meaning mild in Latin) for the white substance that exudes from cut stems. Sativa -meaning sown or cultivated is the species name.
One lettuce plant can produce 30,000 seeds. Lettuce plants must be 10-20 feet away from all other varieties of Lactuca sativa that have gone to seed to save seeds that are true to type. You can harvest viable seeds from one plant. You need 12-15 plants for variety maintenance and you only need 20 plants or more for genetic preservation. You can learn how to plant and save lettuce seeds here.
The varieties that are currently available for everyone who is willing to grow them for food and seeds from the KASSI Living Seed Commons are listed in alphabetical order below. The date indicates when it was introduced to North America.
- Oakleaf (Green): 1827. Tight rosettes of green oak leaf shaped leaves, very tender, long lasting. White seed.
- Red Salad Bowl: 1955. leaf type with burgundy leaves and green centres. Slow to bolt, tender and mild tasting. Black seed.
- Bibb: 1850. Green-loosely folded heads with bronze-tinged leaves.
- Buttercrunch: 1963. Rich green leaves with reddish tinge with yellow-white heart. Tender
- Cimarron: 1700s. Deep red leaves with creamy yellow heart. Crisp. Slow to bolt. Black seed.
- Forellenschluss: 1749. Speckled leaves of red and green. Very beautiful and tasty. White seed.