by Joshua Heston and Dale Grubaugh.
Everybody knows lettuce. However, good heirloom lettuces are a whole different critter from the water-laden iceberg cultivars found in the grocery store. Mild and spicy, crispy and loose-leaved, heirloom lettuce come in many forms.
Amish Deer Tongue. Cimmaron. Forellenschluss. Mascara Oak Leaf. Sanguine Amellore.
Hands-down, one of the finest mixes we have come across is the Rocky Top Lettuce Mix from Baker Creek Seeds. “With more brightly colored and unique lettuces,” writes Baker Creek founder Jere Gettle. “It makes a flavorful and brilliant salad. People love the rich, old-fashioned taste. The mix includes some unlisted rare varieties.”
The result? A heavy harvest of good quality leaves by May 23 which continued throughout the late spring season. This group of varieties have a number of excellent qualities. A surprising lack of bitterness coupled with prolific growth. Unlike many commercial forms of loose-leaf lettuces, the leaves did not become tissue-paper-like in the heat.
Additionally, the varieties germinated early. Excellent (and striking) in fresh salads, the lettuces also made for a fine mess of wilted lettuce (prepared with salt, pepper, vinegar and bacon grease).
It just doesn’t get any more Ozarks than that!
Originally published February 21, 2011,