Why Is My Lettuce Bitter?

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Last Updated on October 31, 2022

Why is my lettuce bitter? This is one frequently asked question by different lettuce growers especially newbie that experience a bad tasting lettuce at the end of their harvest. We’ve got the answer for you here and possible solutions and prevention to go about bitter lettuce.

The crispy juicy lettuce is a very easy plant to grow. However, the leave turning bitter is one common issue any growers may encounter. The good thing is there are definitely things you can do to avoid them turning bitter and we will enlighten you on this.

So, let’s dive in to see why your lettuce is better and what to do to solve the problems.

Bitter Lettuce

The bittern lettuce is usually experienced with its leaves. There’s no denying that the lettuce leaves’ appearance always looks inviting and all: well, you may become disappointed when you have a bite from a lettuce salad or a wrap.

Bitter Lettuce

Why Is Lettuce Bitter?

Heat is the most common reason for bitter lettuce but there are many other conditions that can predispose your lettuce to turn bitter. When you understand the reasons why lettuce may turn bitter, then you can make plans to prevent future occurrences.

1.    Heat Stress

Lettuce is a cool-season crop, however, that doesn’t mean you can’t grow them outside the cool season. Heat is one of the most common and leading causes why your lettuce is turning bitter. As the temperatures rise, the lettuce plant begins to mature and start producing flowers and seeds rather than leaves.

This process is called bolting and it’s a natural unstoppable process that occurs when the temperature rises.

2.    Water

Lettuce leaves are water-loving plants which is why they are full of water! Those huge and succulent leaves require water to remain rigid, full, and tasty. Therefore, if your lettuce plants are watered less often, they can become bitter. When you begin to notice brown leaf edges, then that’s a sign of water deprivation.

So, ensure you water your lettuce plants often and avoid their soil becoming too dry.

Why Is Lettuce Bitter - Water

3.    Nutrition

Lettuce needs adequate nutrition to grow well.  The plant is a very fast-growing plant. Thus, it will require all the resources to grow smoothly and any slight deficiency will make the plant bolt. So, lack of nutrition will retard the growth of lettuce and make your lettuce leaves turn bad-tasting.

Ensure you feed your lettuce plant with regular nutrition. However, don’t overdo it because too much fertilizer, especially excess nitrogen can also cause bitter tasting lettuce.

4.    Bad Soil

Another cause for bitter-tasting lettuce is bad soil. Lettuce plants need optimum draining soil and loose soil. This is because of the shallow and thin roots lettuce has. If the soil does not suit the lettuce plant, they will become stressed and begin to bolt.

5.    Aster Yellows Phytoplasma Disease

Aster yellows are one common lettuce disease that can cause lettuce to turn bitter. The lettuce inner leaves will begin to lose color and the outer leaves will look stunted. This can cause the entire lettuce plant to become weak and not useful.

Aster Yellows Phytoplasma Disease

6.    Lettuce Variety

Lettuce plants belong to a wide range of species and there are over 100s of lettuce varieties and types. They have over 20, 000 other family members.

We have many other lettuce varieties that are not used in homes and cannot find their way in our domestic lives. This type of lettuce variety is from the Lactuca virosa.

The variety we consume is the Lactuca sativa. This type ranges from mild to sweet taste. However, their bitterness can still be activated if they are predisposed to conditions that will make them turn bitter.

Bitter Lettuce Prevention

Here are the following things you can do to prevent a bad-tasting lettuce:

  • Grow in Semi-Shade: Simply grow them in a semi-shade area and ensure you always keep them cool during hot seasons. You can also plant your lettuce under taller plants that will cover or shade your lettuce plants. You can plant them under tomatoes or crops that are trellised.
  • Healthy Soil: Maintain healthy soil and feed the soil with the appropriate nutrient. Add and cover the soil with some mulch to your soil especially hot season and during winter.

Burpee Organic Blood Meal Fertilizer, 3 lb

  • Use Containers: when you grow your lettuce using containers, it allows you the comfort of simply moving them to a shaded place when needed.
  • Shade Cloth: you can purchase shade cloths and create some shade around your garden to block some sun.
  • Water Regularly: never deprive your lettuce plants of water as they will need all the moisture they can get. This is important especially during hot seasons.
  • Grow in Cooler Months: even though it’s possible to grow lettuce outside cooler months, growing them during cooler months will make your crop last longer.

Bitter Lettuce: What To Do With It?

If at the end of it all you end up with a bad tasting lettuce, here are some things you can do to relief the bitterness:

  • Run your lettuce leaves under cool water and put the head in a crisper immediately. Keep it in the crisper for 48 hours and bring it out rinse in cold water again. Then take away the outer leaves and cut the root and tips. The bitter taste should be gone and you can serve right away.
  • You can also cook your lettuce to get rid of the bitter taste and mix it with something sweet such as spinach or silverbeet.

Note that lettuce leaves cannot be frozen or dried as they must be used immediately.

So, rather than letting that bitter lettuce go to waste, you can simply revive it by following the above tips.


Why does my lettuce plant taste bitter?

There are a number of reasons your lettuce could be bitter.

First, it may be too much or too little water. If you are not watering it daily, the plant needs more water. It may also be that the plant has not been getting enough light. If you are in a basement, you will need to provide additional light by using a light box, fluorescent lights, or other means. If you find that you are not able to get adequate light in your basement, you may want to consider relocating your lettuce plant outside, where you can provide adequate sunlight.

How do you fix bitter lettuce?

It’s one of the most common problems that crops face in our backyard, and if you’re like me, you’ve probably tried many different things to help with it. My usual method is to cut off the worst parts, but then I often end up throwing them out.

You can add vinegar. I don't mean just any old vinegary taste. I mean the kind of vinegar that makes a salad pop with flavor.

Why is my hydroponic lettuce bitter?

I'd bet that it's because of something in the water. I think you may be looking for a chlorine filter or a carbon filter. Chlorine kills bacteria and will kill off the bacteria in the water.

Bitter taste is often associated with the presence of oxalic acid in the plant. It's produced as a defense against bacteria and fungi that are feeding on the plant.
This can be caused by either over-watering or by over-fertilizing. If you fertilize with nitrogen-rich materials, then it will increase the concentration of oxalic acid. Keep the soil moist but not soggy; too much moisture can lead to root rot. I have a few pots of lettuce that have been growing for 3 weeks and they have started to get bitter. I have had the same soil mix, same lighting, and same water source for all 3 plants. The soil was changed weekly and everything else has remained constant.

How do I make my lettuce not bitter?

Lettuce is naturally bitter, which is why we eat it with some sort of dressing. The bitterness comes from oxalic acid, which is very soluble in water. In general, the more the leaf has been dried, the less bitter it will be.
Some types of lettuce are less bitter than others. You can also rinse the leaves in a bowl of water to remove some of the bitterness. If you're concerned about the amount of salt you'll be adding to your salad, it's best to add some lemon or lime juice to cut the bitterness before adding the salt. We usually recommend rinsing the lettuce in cold water for 30 seconds to 1 minute before dressing. A quick rinse should get rid of most of the bitterness. You can also use a salad spinner to dry the lettuce after washing.

Final Say On Why Is My Lettuce Bitter?

So, there you have it on why your lettuce is turning bitter. Follow our tips on preventing your lettuce from turning bad so you can enjoy a better tasteful lettuce meal.

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