Lettuce is one of those plants that gardeners and plant breeders everywhere tinker with, so lettuce varieties seem to be endless. Salad-lovers of the world, rejoice!
There are 7 main Types of lettuce, and dozens of varieties within each type, so I’ll just describe each type, and mention a few favorite varieties. See Growing Lettuce for information on how to grow lettuce.
All seeds featured on this site are non-GMO.
Organic seeds are, by definition, non-GMO. Most varieties featured here are organic, but some varieties are only available as non-organic seed. Don't let this prevent you from trying a variety that looks interesting.
NOP (National Organic Program) guidelines allow the use of non-organic (but not GMO) seeds when organic seeds for that variety are not available. The way the plants are grown (without chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides) is the primary determinant of whether they're grown organically.
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Looseleaf Lettuces are colorful, easy, and fast-growing lettuce varieties. The plants form open heads that allow you to harvest a few leaves at a time, or whole plants as needed.
Looseleaf lettuces go from seed to baby salads in 5 weeks, seed to salad in 7. Cut them off 1” above the ground with a pair of scissors, and looseleaf lettuce varieties will resprout in a couple weeks to give you a second cutting. See cut- and- come-again harvesting for more information.
‘Red Oak Leaf’ and ‘Green Oak Leaf’ (50-55 days) are two classic leaf lettuces. Slower to bolt than other leaf lettuce varieties, they also stay tender longer and take longer to become bitter.
‘Red Salad Bowl’ ‘Red Salad Bowl’ (50 days, some frost tolerance) has loose, open heads of deep-red, frilly leaves. Good for early spring sowing.
‘Red Sails’ (52 days, slow-bolting, resists tipburn) has rouge-tinged green leaves, and resists bolting longer than other leaf lettuces. Doesn’t turn bitter till it forms a flower stalk.
'Blushed Butter Oak' (55 days) forms loose, open heads of rose-tinged, oak-shaped leaves.
Butterhead Lettuces form loose, open heads of melt-in-your mouth leaves. They thrive in the warm days of fall, and the cool days from spring to early summer.
‘Burgundy Boston’ (Open Pollinated, 50-55 days) forms loose, rose-tinged heads of soft, buttery leaves. One of the best butterhead lettuces we’ve grown.
‘Merveille des Quatre Saisons’ (55-60 days)—also called ‘Continuity’ and ‘French Four Seasons’—is one of my favorite butterhead lettuce varieties. A French heirloom, it has green leaves tinged with red or bronze, and the leaves stay tender even when they’re bigger than your hand. Can be grown all year round in mild-winter gardens.
‘Drunken Woman Frizzy Headed’ (Open Pollinated, 55 days) has pale green crinkled leaves tinged with rose or red (rose colors when grown in partial shade, red in sun). A beautiful, succulent leaf lettuce that's slow to bolt.
‘Speckles’ (50-55 days) has beautiful green leaves shot with red patches that make a great addition to any salad. It’s a cross between a green butterhead and Forellenschluss romaine, below.
‘Flashy Butter Oak’ (54 days) forms loose, buttery heads of green, oakleaf-shaped leaves that are splashed with red, like ‘Speckles’ above. Slow to bolt and become bitter. A client favorite.
‘Tom Thumb’ (50 days) grows into perfect little domes of soft leaves. Great for growing in pots, window boxes, salad tables, and vegetable container gardens.
‘Skyphos’ (45-50 days) is one of the most beautiful lettuces we’ve grown. It has pale green leaves near the core, and shades of rose through the middle, deepening to red at the edges.
Cos (Romaine) Lettuce
© Steve Masley (Click IMAGE to Enlarge)
Cos (Romaine) Lettuces form open, upright heads of deeply colored leaves. The leaves have stronger flavor than looseleaf varieties, and crunchy midribs
Romaine lettuce is essential for the classic Caesar salad. As long as they get enough water, romaine lettuces can withstand some summer heat.
'Breen' (55 days) is a red "baby" romaine that grows 6-8" high, and is great for salad tables and window boxes.
Buy 'Breen' Seeds (Johnny's Seeds)
‘Jericho’ (57 days) has beautiful, deep-green leaves, and stays sweet even in hot summer weather. Resistant to tip burn and lettuce mosaic virus.
Buy 'Jericho' Seeds (Johnny's Seeds)
‘Flashy Trout Back’ (55 days) is an Austrian heirloom romaine, also known as ‘Forellenschluss’ romaine. It has striking green leaves shot with red patches (similar to ‘Speckles’ butterhead above) and is very tender for a romaine. Beautiful and delicious in any salad. Moderate bolt resistance.
Buy 'Flashy Trout Back' Seeds (Territorial Seeds)
© Steve Masley (Click IMAGE to Enlarge)
Buttercrunch Lettuces are crosses between butterhead (bibb) and romaine varieties. They have a more upright structure, so fewer leaves are in contact with the soil when the weather turns cold, wet and dark.
This makes buttercrunch lettuces less subject to the leaf rots that can afflict butterhead lettuces in late fall and winter.
‘Winter Density’ (54 days) is a frost-tolerant bibb-romaine (buttercrunch-style) that has thick, dark-green leaves in a vertical rosette.
‘Buttercrunch’ (Open Pollinated, 48 days) forms tight, compact green heads of fan-shaped leaves. Excellent bolt resistance. A good choice for growing lettuce in summer. Buy 'Buttercrunch' Seeds (Seeds Now)
Batavian Lettuces, also known as Summer Crisp Lettuces, have thick, crunchy leaves that hold better in the heat than other varieties. Batavian lettuces are heavier feeders than butterheads, looseleaf, and cos varieties, so boost the organic fertilizers.
‘Nevada’ (48 days) produces heavy yields of crisp green leaves in spring and summer.
‘Mottistone’ (55 days) is a red-speckled summer crisp lettuce, similar to ‘Speckles’.
Heading Lettuces (Crisphead Lettuces)
Heading Lettuces roll their leaves into tight heads at maturity, like cabbages. These are the standard Iceberg lettuces, prized for their disease resistance and ability to stand against summer heat without turning bitter, and known for their insipid, watery crunch
I don’t know how conventional farmers manage to make them so tasteless—heading lettuces grown organically have flavor, not just crunch.
‘Summertime’ (48 days) has medium-green heads with dark wrapper leaves.
Buy 'Summertime' Seeds (Sustainable Seed Company)
‘Red Iceberg’ (50 days) has rouge-tinged leaves that form tight, medium-sized heads.
Chinese Lettuces are stiff, strong-flavored varieties. They’re grown for their stalks as well as their leaves, and their slight bitterness is muted in stir-fries and soups.
‘Celtuce’ is a celery-flavored variety.
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