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Keep your salad fresh all year long – how to harvest lettuce so it keeps growing back

A good salad is refreshing and nutritious, and the best salads are often made at home with fresh ingredients. No matter what you add to your salad, few things form a better base than freshly harvested lettuce straight from your garden. Lettuce doesn’t grow all year round, though, and a single head of lettuce can only produce so many leaves at a time. So what should you do if you’re looking to get the most mileage out of your harvest? There are methods of harvesting and regrowing lettuce that can provide you with extra lettuce to keep your salads fresh. Don’t worry, we’ll walk you through how each method works!

Harvesting by the leaf

The first method is to harvest your lettuce by the leaf rather than by the head. This means only harvesting a few leaves at a time as you need them, which encourages the lettuce plant to grow more leaves. This method is great if you only eat lettuce occasionally, or if only one person is eating the lettuce. If you eat lettuce more frequently, or if you’re feeding more than one person, then this method may not give you enough lettuce at once. An easy solution to this is to grow multiple lettuce plants and harvest a little from each.

You can harvest the leaves by cutting or pinching. However, pinching the leaves off can crush the leaf. While this isn’t a big deal for the part of the leaf that you’re eating, the damage can result in the leaf not growing back or growing back more slowly as the plant repairs the damage. Dull scissors or a dull knife can create the same problem. It’s best to use a sharp, clean knife or pair of scissors.

A person reaching for a head of lettuce

The cut and come again method

This method is great if you need a lot of lettuce at once but still want to get a second or third harvest from your plant. It’s particularly useful if you have multiple lettuce plants, especially if they have been planted at different times so that you have additional lettuce heads ready for harvest during the week or two it takes the first lettuce to regrow.

To use the cut and come again method, you’ll once again need a sharp, clean knife or pair of scissors. It’s helpful if you can hold the leaves back with one hand, so you can see the stem of the lettuce. If you can’t use your hand, then a rubber band or hair tie can also help keep the leaves back. Using your tool of choice, make one clean cut at the base of the leaves, leaving one to two inches of stem in the ground. Continue to water and care for the lettuce, and in a couple of weeks, it will be ready to harvest again.

Lettuce scraps in small glasses with water, growing leaves, on a window sill

Regrowing lettuce from stems

If you’ve already harvested your full head of lettuce, or if you’ve purchased a head of lettuce instead of growing one, is all hope lost? Not at all! You can regrow a head of lettuce from the stem, similarly to how it would be regrown in the cut and come again method. Lettuce heads regrown using this method tend to be smaller than the initial head, but it’s still useful for reducing food waste and getting a few extra leaves for salads or sandwiches. Additionally, it’s a good way to grow extra lettuce out of season, when it may be too cold or too hot for lettuce.

Start by removing the leaves from the stem, leaving about an inch of leaf attached. Use those leaves however you please, but keep the stem. Next, prepare a shallow dish of water, so that half the stem is submerged in water. The stem should be vertical so that the side with the leaves is above water. If the stem tips over, you can add a few rocks around it to hold it up. Placing toothpicks so that they form a kind of tripod with the stem in the middle also works.

Place the container in a sunny location, such as a window sill, and change or refill the water every other day. If you place the container outside then you may need to refill it more often, as direct sunlight makes water evaporate faster. After 10 to 14 days, your lettuce will stop growing and is ready to harvest!

Whether you want it for salads, sandwiches, or wraps, these methods of harvesting and regrowing lettuce will help keep you supplied with your favorite lettuces. Next time you grow your favorite lettuce varieties, try one of these methods out to see how it works for you! They’re fun, easy, and effective, so keep them in mind next time you head out to your garden to harvest some lettuce.

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