It doesn’t take a lot to entertain this backyard gardener. Give me a bowl of crispy leaf lettuce, a big dollop of mayonnaise and a saltshaker, and I’m in high cotton. In fact, one of the great joys in having a backyard garden is to be able to walk among the vegetables on a spring evening– right before dinner – pick a couple handfuls of leaf lettuce or other fresh veggies and enjoy.
Thinking back, tossed salads are really a modern phenomenon. When I was growing up, nobody had tossed salads unless they went to a restaurant. Our home version of a salad was leaf lettuce picked from the garden. And all it needed was a little salt and mayo.
Anybody can grow leaf lettuce and it only takes a small area. A six-foot row will produce numerous pickings. Lettuce can even be grown in pots or raised garden beds, and I have seen industrious gardeners raise leaf lettuce in ordinary gutters filled with a little topsoil and hung on a fence.
I like Black Simpson leaf lettuce for my simple gardening needs. You can plant it as early as February, and harvest within a few weeks. Instead of thinning the normal way, I eat the “thinnings”. You can stretch your leaf lettuce crop for about two months, but when the tops begin to go to seed, it’s time to pull up the lettuce and plant some green beans.
I encourage every one to have a backyard garden – no matter the size – and for those that do, plant a little leaf lettuce every year.