Last Updated on October 31, 2022
Romaine lettuce is one versatile and refreshingly crispy type of lettuce. But do you know when to harvest romaine lettuce?
It is pretty easy to grow romaine lettuce so far you grow them in the right season. But when it comes to harvesting romaine lettuce, you need to know the basics. If you pick romaine lettuce too early or at the wrong time, you may get a woody and bitter-tasting lettuce rather than the tender ones.
So here’s an easy guide on getting to know when to harvest your romaine lettuce.
Some Info On Romaine Lettuce
Romaine lettuce is a crunchy, sturdy, and elongated deep green leaves with great nutritional value. It also forms a closely packed head. This lettuce variety is refreshingly crispy and is popularly used as a base in salads.
They are so sturdy that they can be held up to heat for grilling. Therefore, they are more tolerant to heat than any other lettuce variety. They will also remain crunchy and won’t wilt quickly especially in salads. Nowadays, romaine lettuce has become a grilling staple along with other vegetables.
In North America, you can find romaine lettuce usually sold as hearts that the outer leaves have been conveniently taken out. Most of the romaine lettuce grown in the United States is grown in California.
Although you may notice only one variety of romaine lettuce in the store, there are actually many cultivars of romaine. Some romaine lettuce tends to have a looser structure compared to the commonly closely packed head. While some have red or speckled leaves.
Romaine lettuce tends to mature a little longer compared to other lettuce varieties. However, it isn’t necessary you wait until they attain their full size before you harvest them.
When To Plant & Harvest Romaine Lettuce
A lot of lettuce varieties can be picked in similar ways. But it helps to always know the right way of harvesting the particular type of lettuce variety you’re growing.
Romaine lettuce thrives well in cool weather conditions. Therefore, they aren’t so great in hot weather because they can fade quickly.
Just like any other lettuce variety, it’s ideal to plant romaine lettuce around early spring so you can get a late spring or early summer harvest. You can as well plant romaine lettuce at the end of summer to harvest them in fall.
As we mentioned, romaine lettuce can take a long time to mature and this usually takes about 3 months. Again, you don’t have to wait till they attain full size to harvest them. However, if you wish to harvest full heads of romaine lettuce, you should keep in mind their long growing season.
A lot of romaine lettuce variety can take about 65 to 75 days to form a full or matured head. Some cultivars however can take lesser (about 55 days) to attain maturity. Then a couple of other cultivars can take longer.
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Plan your harvest time based on the particular variety if you want a whole head of romaine lettuce. A fully or properly matured whole head romaine lettuce should have a fully formed head, be densely packed, and feel very firm.
But if you don’t mind harvesting individual leaves or harvesting them before they attain maturity, you can begin picking them once they attain a few inches long. This is usually about a month after planting.
So you can keep on harvesting romaine leaves until the plant fades. Or simply harvest moderately if you want your romaine lettuce to form head later in the season.
Guidelines On How To Harvest Romaine Lettuce
So how do you harvest romaine lettuce? Let’s look into this.
1. Harvesting Individual Leaves
Harvesting individual romaine lettuce can offer you that cut and come again feeling. Just ensure you the outer leaves and leave the central leaves to continue growing. Also, avoid breaking the central stems. You can break the leaves at their base by snapping them or make use of a sharp tool to cut them off.
Also, ensure you water them regularly especially when the weather is hot to promote new growth. Make sure you remain about 2 or 3 leaves so your lettuce plant has the energy to keep producing.
However, when you notice your lettuce is preparing to enter seed, it’s best to harvest the whole head to prevent the romaine lettuce from turning bitter.
One sign to know your lettuce is about to enter the bolting stage is an extra white lettuce sap.
2. Harvesting Whole Head Romaine Lettuce
If you wish to harvest the whole head of romaine lettuce, you will need some patience. But it’s all worth it because you will be rewarded with a lot of crisp, fresh lettuce.
Once the head has attained full size and they are firm, use a sharp tool to cut the base. We recommend you leave about 2 or 3 inches of the stem to encourage your plant to regrow and generate baby lettuce.
To avoid bolting, harvest your romaine lettuce head promptly once they feel firm. Another way is to pull the plants out of the ground and trim off the roots. But it’s better to just cut off the heads to avoid disturbing the structure of your soil.
Additionally, if you notice the lettuce has begun sending up a tall central stalk, that’s a sign of bolting preparation. Hence, it’s important you harvest your romaine lettuce at once to prevent bitter-tasting lettuce.
Storing Romaine Lettuce
First, wash your romaine lettuce under running water to remove dirt. Lettuce can be soaked in a salad spinner if you have one. The spinner basket should be inside the bowl then put the lettuce into the basket and fill with water. Once you’re ready to drain it, just lift the basket out and discard the dirty water.
If you however don’t have a salad spinner, you should put your romaine lettuce leaves dry with paper towels. Then put your lettuce inside a container with a lid. Dampen some paper towels and put them on top of your romaine lettuce. Then close the container and put it in the fridge.
When is Romaine lettuce ready to harvest?
The harvesting of romaine lettuce is dependent on the varieties and growing conditions. The leaves are generally ready to be harvested when they reach a size of 6 to 8 inches in length, which is usually 10 to 14 days after planting. In some cases, depending on the variety, it may take up to two weeks longer.
Can I eat romaine lettuce when it’s still growing?
No. Romaine lettuce should be harvested before it reaches its full size. It’s best to harvest lettuce when it’s 6 to 8 inches in length, depending on the variety. Lettuce grows fastest when it is picked before it reaches its full size.
It's important to wait so that you get all the nutrients that it has to provide. It contains vitamin C, folate, potassium, iron, fiber, calcium, protein, vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9 and B12, omega-3 fatty acids, copper, magnesium and phosphorus.
What should it look like when it’s ready?
Romaine lettuce is a member of the butterhead family, which means that it has a thick, fibrous outer leaf called a rind. When you eat romaine lettuce, you are eating the core of the head and the leaves themselves. You don’t want to remove any of the leaves because they are where most of the nutrients are found.
How do I store romaine lettuce?
Romaine lettuce should be stored in the refrigerator for no longer than 5 days. The longer you store it, the more the lettuce will start to rot. After 3 days, wrap the leaves in plastic wrap and store them in a plastic bag. Romaine lettuce is very perishable and should not be kept out of the refrigerator longer than 3 days. It is best to use romaine lettuce immediately after purchasing it.
Can you harvest them in the cold?
No, this is why many people grow them indoors so that they can have them year-round-
If you are looking to plant romaine lettuce seeds outdoors, you will want to start them around 10 weeks before your last frost date.
Will romaine lettuce regrow after cutting?
Romaine lettuce, which is also known as cos or iceberg lettuce, regrows quite well if it has been cut and stored properly.
It will lose a little of its crispness and color over time, but it will still taste just fine. If you want to avoid this, simply store your romaine in the refrigerator instead.
If you can stand to wait a little longer, though, it's worth it! To make the most of this lettuce, keep it refrigerated until you need it.
How do you cut it?
To remove the leaves, first cut off the bottom of the lettuce. Then cut each leaf in half. Holding one half in your hand, cut along the outside edge of the leaf. Continue cutting off each leaf and placing it in your salad bowl. This will keep the leaves from rolling around and mixing together.
When you can harvest your romaine lettuce mainly depends on if you want whole head lettuce or individual leaves. So, follow our guidelines on how to properly harvest your romaine lettuce.
Eunice is an enthusiastic gardener with a passion for growing beautiful flowers. She loves nothing more than spending time in her garden, tending to her plants and enjoying the outdoors. Eunice has been gardening for over 15 years and has developed a unique style of landscaping that is both practical and aesthetically pleasing. She is especially fond of growing roses and enjoys experimenting with different varieties and colors. Eunice takes great pride in her garden and often shares the fruits of her labor with friends and family. In her spare time, she enjoys reading gardening magazines and attending local horticulture events. Eunice is passionate about her hobby and is always eager to share her knowledge and experience with others.