Beautiful, crunchy salad greens right from the garden are an almost year-round treat in some regions. Crisphead lettuce varieties offer greens with a nice, toothy snap and sweet flavor that complements any dressing. What is crisphead lettuce? You may recognize crisphead lettuce plants as the commonly sold iceberg lettuce found in your produce market. Versatile and easy to grow with a little know how.
What is Crisphead Lettuce?
Crisphead lettuce is mostly grown in cooler, northern climates. It needs a bit more maintenance than the loose-leaf varieties and has a characteristic flavor and texture not found in those types. They bolt in summer but can be started in fall or early spring, producing at least two seasons of produce. They also need a longer growing period as compared to the upright or loose-leaf varieties. Some crisphead lettuce info will help you navigate this more picky but definitely worth growing head lettuce.
Crisphead, or iceberg, is a rounded, compact lettuce with overlapping leaves. The interior leaves are paler and sweet, while the exterior, greener leaves are more malleable and useful for lettuce wraps. The plants need a long, cool season to develop the dense heads. In areas without such weather, they should be started indoors and transplanted outside while temperatures are still cool. Plants growing in summer will generally bolt and get bitter.
Crisphead lettuce plants are favorites of slugs and snails as well as other pests and need constant vigilance to prevent leaf damage.
Growing Crisphead Lettuce
The best way to ensure thick, round heads is to start the seed indoors in flats or outside in cold frames. Temperatures of 45 to 65 degrees F. (7-18 C.) are ideal for growing head lettuces.
Harden off transplants and install them in a bed with loose, loamy soil and plenty of organic matter. Space them 12 to 15 inches (31-38 cm.) apart. Use an organic mulch around the plants to conserve moisture and prevent competitive weeds.
Crisphead lettuce info recommends frequent but light watering, which will promote the growth of the leaves. Make sure the area has good drainage to prevent mildew and fungal problems. Use iron phosphate around the bed to prevent snail and slug damage.
Crisphead Lettuce Varieties
Some of the head lettuces have been bred to be more heat resistant and/or slower to bolt. These varieties should be selected in areas with short spring cool temps.
Ithaca and Great Lakes are suitable for these climates. Igloo is another great heat resistant type. Crispino forms medium sized, light green heads. Iceberg A was introduced in 1894 and develops large deep green heads. A slightly looser head is produced by Red Grenoble, with fluted leaf edges and attractive bronze, red blush tones.
Harvest heads when compact and firm. Use them in wraps, salads, sandwiches, or just as a crispy snack.