Lactuca sativa (romaine lettuce) grows with upright heads and loosely bunched leaves that cup inward. While lettuce is traditionally thought to be a cool-weather crop, romaine can deal with higher temperatures than other varieties.
You’ll notice that the quality of romaine lettuce is affected by harvesting methods and timing. You can eat fresh romaine lettuce straight from the garden if you use proper harvesting techniques.
Determine the approximate maturity period, which for romaine lettuce is usually around 55 to 65 days. However, growing conditions can affect the maturity rate, so don’t rely on your calendar to tell you when to harvest. (Learn How to Harvest Kale)
In this guide, you can learn how to grow romaine lettuce from seed so you can pinch outer leaves for baby lettuce leaves. You can also learn how to keep track of the romaine’s growth as the maturity date approaches and when to harvest romaine lettuce rather than the date they were planted.
Does Romaine Lettuce Grow Back After Cutting?
Romaine lettuce is healthy and popular head lettuce. You can learn how to harvest lettuce in a couple of ways, one for all the plant and where it can grow back, and also where you can continually harvest leaves from the same plant.
Harvest the Full Lettuce Head
- Romaine’s heads are ready to harvest around 65–70 days after planting the seeds and can take a little under three months to fully mature.
- Cut the head off above the base when you want a second harvest. To harvest all the romaine head at once, use sharp gardening shears.
- Make sure the lettuce has time to re-sprout leaves following your first harvest. After cutting the full head at once, the roots often produce additional lettuce leaves you can use as your second harvest at 55–60 days from the first harvest.
Harvest Outer Leaves
Harvest leaf lettuce in the morning to maintain fresh, crisp leaves full of flavor. By picking young lettuce early in the day, they don’t dry in the sun.
If you wait until the afternoon or evening, you could have slightly withered leaves. If you forget to harvest in the morning, wait until the following morning to harvest.
Mature romaine leaves are usually dark green and can grow up to 8 inches in height.
Pick 6–8 of the outermost mature leaves from the lettuce head to prolong the harvest. You will find the advantage here is you can extend your harvest considerably since the inner leaves take around one week to ten days to mature.
The downside here is that any subsequent harvest will be smaller than the first.
Snap off the romaine leaves using a sharp twist of the leaf stem. If you want to pluck an individual romaine leaf, you can grasp it at the base and snap it down sharply until you feel the leaf snap from the plant.(Read our Guide to Harvesting Garlic)
Rinse harvested leaves and store them in your refrigerator for up to 10 days. You do this by taking your outer leaves from your romaine plants. Rinse off any dirt from the leaves under running cool tap water. Pat them dry, then store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
How Do I Know When My Romaine Lettuce is Ready to Pick?
Fresh romaine lettuce has a crisp, savory taste from the thick, lush leaves and can be the ideal addition to a salad.
Yet, should you harvest before it’s ready, it can taste woody with bitter leaves rather than tender ones. Before planting, you can learn about the stages of romaine lettuce growth and harvesting.
Romaine Lettuce Growth
When you grow from seeds, romaine lettuce can take around three months to mature. It will appear dark green, and leaves look open when it is mature. Romaine lettuce needs to be harvested as it reaches full size, but before it fully matures.
Harvest Romaine Lettuce
No matter which species of romaine lettuce, you need to understand how to harvest it. Before the plant reaches maturity, you can harvest the lettuce by removing its outer leaves. Do this, and the leaves in the center continue to grow.
Alternately, you can dig up the whole plant or cut about an inch above the soil. It all depends on the amount of lettuce you require.
If you dig the whole plant, pull the base of the lettuce head and firmly pull upward. The entire plant will come loose. Be aware; it’s best to harvest romaine in the morning. If you harvest the lettuce plant correctly, a second harvest is possible.
Once harvested, use it immediately to have the best quality. You can store head lettuce for two weeks as well in the refrigerator. (Learn When to Harvest Butternut Squash)
How Do You Regrow Romaine Lettuce?
Unlike the regrowing of green onions or celery, you can’t regrow a full head of lettuce, yet you can grow a handful of leaves. Regrown lettuce tens to bolt before it grows to a full head of lettuce.
If you want to grow from purchased lettuce, you can use these steps.
- Eat your purchased lettuce and cut the leaves to roughly 1 to 2 inches from the bottom
- Place this cut piece of the stem in a shallow dish of water that’s about 1/2 inch in depth
- Place this on your windowsill or beneath grow lights
- Change your water every 1 to 2 days
- You may notice roots grow from the bottom
- After 10-12 days, your lettuce will be as large as it will grow.
If you are growing romaine lettuce, you can use the cut-and-come method of growing. Once your romaine shows signs of flowering, you can cut the head, so the remaining portion is around two inches tall in the soil.
Water as you would normally, and you can see two or three new heads forming. It can take a few weeks, yet it offers a better way to get a second harvest from one plant.
How Do You Keep Romaine Lettuce from Bolting?
To prevent bolting, plant leafy lettuces in the spring. From there, you can continually be harvesting romaine lettuce throughout the year, as it can prevent bolting and provide lettuce leaves for most of the summer.
For head lettuce like an iceberg, it’s better to plant them a fall crop, and they mature as the weather cools. You can also grow in the shade so your lettuce won’t face the sun and hot weather.
This prevents bolting since the crop doesn’t possess full energy, yet they do come with stunted growth.