Lettuce is definitely something my family eats a lot of. We really enjoy our salads, lettuce on our tacos, and even wrapping burgers in lovely leaves of romaine.
Bolted and flowering romaine lettuce plants.
I became interested in seed saving last year which led me to some research on how to save seeds from the plants that I grow each year. One of those, of course, is lettuce, and so rather than yanking the bolted lettuce plants out of the ground and throwing them away, I allowed them to continue growing. Each plant grew to 4-5 feet high and bloomed with small yellow flowers, which soon after turned to what looked like miniature dandelions. The flower buds are sticky to the touch be cause of the milky sap that is contained inside of the plants./div>
A closeup of the buds and flowers.
Once the the flowers have turned to ‘mini-dandelions’, it’s time to harvest the seeds. Usually the whole flower head will be pretty dry and the act of rolling it between your thumb and forefinger will release many seeds from the head. However, not every ‘mini-dandelion’ will have developed seeds. If the flower head feels wet to the touch (when rolling it between your fingers) at all, the seeds are probably not yet developed and ready to be harvested. As you practice, you will be able to discern whether it’s time to extract seeds from each head. Since all lettuce seeds don’t ripen at once, you will need to come back to each plant from time to time.
They look like ’mini dandelions’ to me.
Another way to harvest them per Seed Sowing and Saving by Carole B. Turner, is to shake the plant over a paper bag to catch the seeds. This method is supposed to cut back to little or no winnowing, but since it wasn’t a successful method for me, I needed to do a little winnowing (I used a strainer). These lettuce plants had been in the ground for quite a while and didn’t seem even close to finishing their seed production, so because I needed the space to plant more of my summer crops, I made the executive decision to pull up the plants and set them in a well-ventilated area to dry. I stacked them on a table outside for a few days and finished up the seed collecting. I got quite a few seeds that should last me a few years.
rolling the seeds between my thumb and forefinger
Can you see the small, long seeds?
Once you have finished your harvesting, store the seeds in a sealed container in a cool, dry place. Seed viability is about 5 years, so make sure you label your container with what type of seeds and the year you harvested the seed.
The fruits of my labor. Not all of this is seed, but most of it is.
Since this was my first time winnowing, I think I did alright!
Do you harvest and collect seeds? If so, what kind?
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