- Gloire du Dauphiné Batavia Lettuce – French, of course, with a name like that. Heat tolerant, wine-red on the outer leaves and pale green inside. It’s also known as Sierra, because it grows well in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
- Nevada – very similar to the above, but it’s pale green all over.
Loose Leaf Varieties
- Black Seeded Simpson – a Henderson introduction from 1870 or thereabouts. Frilly, light green and dependable. Does well in heat and cold and doesn’t bolt easily. Sweet taste.
- Amish Deer Tongue – the original of this lettuce, known as Deer Tongue or Matchless, got its name from the pointed triangular leaves. Amish Deer Tongue was probably selected from the original and has been around since 1840. It’s heat tolerant and has good flavor and texture.
- Bronze Arrowhead – a youngster from 1947, it is very sweet, with bronze-blushed wavy margins. Heat tolerant.
- Lollo Rossa – this deep maroon lettuce is Italian. You’ll often find the same thing under very similar names, such as Lolla Rosso. It’s loaded with antioxidants, especially quercetin, which is an immune system booster. It’s usually sweet, but occasionally it can have a bitter edge. This one does better grown in spring and fall.
- Oak Leaf – got its name because of its leaf shape. It’s a pale green, very hardy lettuce introduced by Vilmorin in 1771. Good late fall and winter lettuce.
- SloBolt – another one named for a characteristic, but in this case, it’s because it doesn’t bolt easily. Good for growing in hot weather and pretty, with frilly, light green leaves. It’s a comparative youngster from 1946.
Chinese lettuce only comes in one variety, known as Celtuce. It’s sometimes known as asparagus lettuce, because the stems taste a little like asparagus. Both leaves and stem are edible, but the stems were the most important part to the Chinese, who pickled them and used them in stir-fries. Although it came out of China in the 1890s, Burpee introduced it to America in 1938, and gave it the name celtuce because it seemed like a combination of celery stems and lettuce leaves. The plant is not related to celery, however. The seeds can be hard to germinate, and this is definitely a cool-season plant. This is one lettuce that’s better cooked. The stems can be diced and sautéed, cut in chunks and roasted, or shaved thin like noodles. Young tender leaves can be used in salads, while larger leaves are cooked like other greens.
If I could only have one lettuce, I would probably go with Paris Island Cos (which makes bigger heads than the others, so you get a little more lettuce), Black-Seeded Simpson or Grandpa Admire’s. But lettuce takes up little space and lends itself well to succession planting and interplanting, so this is a plant where you don’t really need to make a choice.