Close up of green and brown lettuce
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Did you know that lettuce (Latuca sativa) has been cultivated since 500 BC? That's right. This veggie appeared at royal tables of Persian kings about 550 BC. It was also said to be quite popular with the Romans. In fact, they are responsible for 'romaine' (or 'cos' as it is also known). A neat lettuce to grow is Baquieu, a French heirloom with a tight head and crisp sweet flavor. Tear it into a salad full of veggies for an easy organic spring meal. Baquieu seeds are all over the internet seed exchange and reputable organic retailers also carry this variety and many more of the old standby seeds.

The History of Baquieu Lettuce

The exact origin of lettuce is not largely known, though it likely originated in the Eastern Mediterranean - coming from wild lettuce (Latuca serriola). Early lettuce varieties had smaller leaves with tall swollen stems and looked quite different from the types we know today. Honestly, I can't find a word written about the history of Baquieu lettuce. I do know that it was developed by the French Terre de Semences. Other than that, frankly, I do not have the development, usage or any other historical fact to offer. This is an especially compact and bolt resistant head lettuce with lovely pinkish-red tinged leaves. Baquieu bears hermaphroditic seeds and is also a medicinal. Oddly, if you let this lettuce plant bolt, it becomes mildly toxic to some people. Fun fact! Baquieu lettuce is a member of the Asteraceae family which includes asters and sunflowers. Who would've thought?

Growing Baquieu Lettuce

If you are an avid gardener like me, you often start your crops from seed. Whether you use organic seed or just grab a packet of Ed Hume's, you choose your varieties with care and an eye to what your family will eat. Using heirloom lettuce plant seeds, which are open pollinated, will produce the same plants year after year. Hybrid plants are engineered and bred to contain certain traits, but you will not get the same plant if you save the seed. You have to purchase the same blend each year. You can preserve seeds from this heirloom plant for up to 5 years, but the best bet is to plant them annually for a consistent fresh supply. As with all lettuce varieties, Baquieu is a cool season plant. It needs 50 to 60 days to mature and can be planted for a spring or fall crop. In my own zone, I can direct seed them in late February to early March and again in August. Your exact time to sow will vary. The rule of thumb is to sow as soon as the soil is workable. Plant seeds ¼ inch deep and an inch apart. The seeds should germinate in 6 to 10 days. Protect your babies from slugs and snails and make sure they get some water! Thin them to 10 inches apart, but don't throw those little guys away! Use them as part of a baby vegetable salad or simply lay the tiny leaves on a tuna fish sandwich or whatever flavor you prefer. Try growing Baquieu lettuce as an introduction to heirloom veggies and you will get hooked. There are literally hundreds of heirloom varieties available to introduce new flavors, shapes and colors to your diet.

Bonnie Grant