By: Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer
When we go to restaurants, we usually don’t get to specify that we would like our salad made with Parris Cos, De Morges Braun lettuce or other varieties we favor in the garden. Instead, we must rely on the luck of the draw, and hope that whatever salad mix the waiter brings us is crisp and sweet, not limp and bitter. Gardeners, however, can avoid this disappointment by simply growing their own delicious, crisp, sweet lettuce varieties – with the lettuce ‘De Morges Braun’ being high on the list. Read on to learn more about De Morges Braun lettuce plants.
Most lettuce varieties take up very little space in the garden and can be planted in succession or as companions with other garden plants, giving us the opportunity to grow several different varieties, which can be harvested over and over for fresh salad mixes throughout the growing season. Certain tasty lettuce varieties, such as ‘De Morges Braun’ lettuce, are also aesthetically pleasing to the eye and can be tucked in small spaces of ornamental beds or containers.
De Morges Braun is a variety of romaine lettuce that originated in Switzerland. The lettuce plants form classic upright romaine heads which grow 6-15 inches tall (15-38 cm.) and 12-18 inches wide (30-45 cm.). It is commonly known as red leaf lettuce or red leaf romaine because in cooler temperatures the outer leaves will develop a rich pink to red color, while the inner leaves retain a bright green color. As temperatures warm up throughout the growing season, the outer foliage reverts back to an apple green. De Morges Braun lettuce plants are notably slow to bolt in summer and have excellent cold tolerance.
Like most lettuce plants, growing De Morges Braun does best in the cooler temperatures of spring or fall. The unique reddish hues in these seasons not only add interest to salad mixes, but can also accent plants in the landscape or containers. In autumn, the red foliaged plants can be used interchangeably with kale or ornamental cabbages to accent mums and other fall plants. In spring, the pink or red foliage may add some of the first hues of color to the garden.
Plants have excellent heat and cold tolerance for lettuce plants, but in colder northern climates, seeds may need to be started indoors or cold frames. When planted in ideal temperatures, between 40-70°F. (4-21°C.), De Morges Braun romaine lettuce seeds will germinate in about 5-15 days and mature in 65 days. Seeds can be sown in 3-week intervals.
Though De Morges Braun lettuce leaves rarely bitter with age, they are usually harvested from the plants as needed for fresh salads and garnishes. Succession plantings and harvesting mature leaves as needed will extend the season. To retain the rich pink and red hues of De Morges Braun lettuce leaves in summer, provide plants with the light shade from tall companion plants in the afternoon.
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"…Humans have eaten some 80,000 plant species in our history," Barbara Kingsolver writes in her wonderful 2007 book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life.
"After recent precipitous changes, three-quarters of all human food now comes from just eight species…Modern U.S. consumers now get to taste less than 1 percent of the vegetable varieties that were grown here a century ago."
Think about your own vegetable garden: Are you planning for diversity this spring? What could your first salad of the year look and taste like if it incorporated more diversity?
In our February 2013 Smart Gardener, we talked in detail about how to start seeds for spring. This month, we'll talk about what to start for spring—and that means cool-weather-loving lettuces and greens.
While the word "salad" once meant a handful of blah-tasting lettuce or a chunk of iceberg, today the word conjures a plate full of diversity: different shades of green and red leaves in dozens of shapes and sizes, full of tastes and textures sweet to bitter, mild to spicy, buttery to crunchy. If you've been growing just one favorite lettuce variety over the years, now's the time to add the greens that make the first salad of the season sing. Here are a few:
And then there are the lettuces.
Today there are hundreds of varieties to choose from, including a good number of heirloom varieties. (Check out Seed Savers Exchange at seedsavers.org for a truly great selection). Out in the Fruit & Vegetable Garden, horticulturist Lisa Hilgenberg has chosen two very different lettuces to plant in the cold frames.
Still undecided about which lettuces and greens to grow? Diversity is built into the many lettuce/greens seed mixes available through catalogs or nurseries. A sample from the mixes available at Renee's Garden (reneesgarden.com): "Asian Baby Leaf Mix," Edible Landscape "Stardom," and "Heirloom Cutting Mix." A mix makes it easy: just sow and grow, knowing that you're instantly adding more diversity to your spring garden.
Wishing all smart gardeners a delicious first salad of the year!
Karen Zaworski was a writer, photographer, and passionate gardener in Oak Park, Illinois.
I’ve been sorting through all of my seeds and entering them all into a database where I can keep track of seeding dates, germination, notes about harvest and flavor. I must say that I’ve acquired quite an assortment of seeds over the past couple years. I have a few varieties of many different things like broccoli and cabbage. I thought tomatoes would take the prize for most variety of seeds with about 20 different kinds in my box. But, I was surprised to see that lettuce/greens took the prize, I actually have 3 folders full of lettuce, spinach and other greens.
I do love lettuce and who can resist all the lovely colors and shapes in the seed catalogs. I do grow a lot of lettuce and greens each spring and fall, and we do eat a lot of salads. Lettuce is a great vegetable to grow yourself because it doesn’t take up much space, it matures quickly, is pretty adaptable to most kinds of soil and can be grown easily in pots. The seeds germinate easily and grow quickly, so it’s a perfect thing for first time seed starters and gardeners. Even though I have tons of lettuce seeds in my collection I’ll still be adding a few more this year, including that ‘Roxy’ lettuce I bought at my local farmer’s market and loved.
The varieties in my seed box:
Arugula – regular
Arugula – wild
Arugula – ‘Even Star Winter’
Kale – ‘Lacinato’
Kale – ‘Lacinato Rainbow Mix’
Kale – ‘Red Russian’
Spinach – ‘Winter Bloomsdale’
Spinach – ‘Catalina’
Spinach – ‘Bloomsdale Longstanding’
Spinach – ‘Tyee’
Spinach – ‘Giant Winter’
Swiss Chard – ‘Multicolor Bright Lights’
Lettuce – ‘Rocky Top’
Lettuce – ‘Black Seeded Simpson’
Lettuce – ‘Red Sails’
Lettuce – ‘Simpson Elite’
Lettuce – ‘Jericho Romaine’
Lettuce – ‘Rouge Grenobloise’
Lettuce – ‘Sanquine Ameliore’
Lettuce – ‘Sea of Red’
Lettuce – ‘Little Gem’
Lettuce – ‘De Morges Braun’
Lettuce – ‘Brune D’Hiver’
Lettuce – ‘Winter Density’
Lettuce – ‘Seed Savers Mini Lettuce Mix’
Lettuce – ‘Sweetie Baby Romaine’
Greens – ‘Green Malabar’ Spinach
Greens – ‘New Zealand’ Spinach
Greens – ‘Scarlet Frills’ Mustard
Greens – ‘Fall Mix from Sand Hill’
Greens – Green Curled Endive
Greens – Minutina
Greens – ‘Tendergreen’ Mustard
Greens – Mache, corn salad
It would be hard for me to choose one type of lettuce or green to grow. I would have a really hard time deciding between spinach and arugula. I think arugula would probably win if push came to shove. There’s just something wonderful about this lovely green. It’s spicy and delicious and makes a wonderful salad, pesto and a killer BLT.
It’s also quite beautiful and ornamental when you let it go to seed. And a huge bonus for me is that the deer and ground hogs won’t eat it, so I don’t have to worry about protecting it.
I’ve always wanted to make an ornamental lettuce bed in one of my raised beds. I think this spring I’ll grow 4-5 different colors and shapes of lettuces and put them in a decorative arrangements. The only problem with that is then I’ll end up with a lot of mature lettuce to eat, I guess we’ll be eating lots of salad!
What kind of seeds do have the most varieties of?
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Reply to Tweets that mention I Love Lettuce | Chiot’s Run — Topsy.com's comment
I’m going to try growing lettuce for the first time ever in my gardening experiences. I’ve never had the space to grow a salad garden. I’ve always been more interested in tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and cucumbers. I expanded my garden by two raised beds and have a spot now for lettuce, radishes, carrots, and dill weed. It will be a wonderful year.
Have a great green salad day.
Reply to Nebraska Dave's comment
My Dad has grown lettuce, spinach, cabbage, etc.
I have no clue and don’t want to count.
I do know that I bow in your direction for your superior organizational skills. Plus, you have collected waaaaaay more seeds than me.
I got a bit carried away planting lettuce this fall. I can grow lettuce all winter with a cover over my bed for the coldest nights. But as much as I love salads, I do find we eat less of them in the winter. If only there were a way to have this excess through the summer. My lettuce bolts by June… just as my tomatoes are coming into their own. I purchased a new variety called Jericho that was developed to grow in the Middle East. I’m hoping that one will be heat tolerant enough.
I’m dragging a bit on seed starting. I started on tomatoes yesterday, which is my most critical. I need them big and healthy to get them in the ground asap in March.
As for a gardening database, do you not like MyFolia.com? I know you are a member there. I love their seed stash database and journaling system. They are constantly making upgrades to the site they now have harvest tallies and a yearly garden review report. Anyway, I find them much easier to use than maintaining a database on my own.
Reply to Seren Dippity's comment
I tried MyFolia, but I’d rather have it on my computer where I can more easily enter dates for sowing/germination/harvest. I like the search features and the export features of a spreadsheet as well. I’m hoping to incorporate a list of all my seed/plants on ChiotsRun 2.0 so this will make it much easier to include that.
You should try New Zealand or Green Malabar spinach, both are a tropical plant that tastes like spinach and LOVES the heat. Unfortunately my plants all go eaten by rabbits last year so I can’t tell you about the taste.
thanks for the info on the nz and green mal. spinach= will try- growing a winter variety gigante something for next fall/winter.
Interesting question. I had to look and the answer (at the moment) is: Legumes (although if we segregate beans and peas the answer is non-lettuce greens). But these are just last years seeds. I’m about to get a large order for this year so the winner will be different (probably some kind of Solanaceae).
I like the idea of putting a seed inventory on the blog. I think I’ll borrow your it. I love talking about seeds and it would be fun to get into a conversation about them with my readers.
My roommate and I started seed yesterday, so it was a great way to take stock of what we’ve got. We have mostly leafy greens as well, because we use them so often in the kitchen. All of our lettuce varieties were successful last year, but we had only one variety of spinach and it didn’t do so well. If anyone has a recommendation for spinach seed for zone 9-10, please pass along. Thanks!
I’ve always had great luck with ‘Bloomsdale Longstanding’ Spinach and this past year I grew ‘Catalina’ from Renee’s Garden and it was fab! It may have been the seed you got, I had a pack of spinach seeds once that just didn’t do well, I know it was the seed because I had grown the variety before with seeds from another company.
Thanks, Susy! I like Renee’s Garden I’ll try the Catalina.
Oh my goodness…you do have lots of lettuces…I have just about as many melons: cantaloupe, honeydew, musk and watermelon…about 30 different kinds…and I’m really not crazy about melons!
Definitely tomatoes. I have 19 varieties in my seed stash and I grew all 19 varieties last year! I’ll be ordering 3 or 4 more varieties in the next couple weeks. If you count all the different lettuces in lettuce seed mixes, I probably have 12-15 different lettuces too!
You can never have too many kinds of any one vegetable…
And I thought I had a lot of types of lettuce!
I’ve got a couple of types of kale, some spinach, chard and pak choi, and about eight different packs of lettuce – but my stash looks like a monoculture compared to you )
When I went through my seed box the other day, I found I had three types of butternut squash and four types of pumpkin – which is somewhat excessive given the size of my garden! I think I’ll grow just a few of each, and see what works best for future reference.
Reply to louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife's comment
Mmmmm! I love a good salad, and a straight from the garden BLT, with a nice juicy tomatoe and lettuce.
I also love going to Local Roots!! Such a great place!
Hope your staying warm in this lovely weather!
Last year I tested several different varieties of lettuce, plus a few other greens, to try and determine just how much cold weather they can take. I grew the lettuce and greens in my cold frames, which were covered with spunbonded polyester row cover fabric (like Reemay or Agribon). If you are interested in my cold frames, you can read about how I make them here.
The light row cover material works here in Southern Indiana because we rarely get a large amount of snow at one time. The material keeps out wind, and provides some protection against the cold. It also provides protection against deer, which are a real problem here in our garden in every season.
The results of last year’s trial were very encouraging. The lettuces that did well included Oak Leaf, Sea of Red, Radichetta, Winter Density, Ruby and Spotted Trout (aka Forellenschluse and Freckles). The tested greens all did well (Arugula, Komatsuna, Yukina Savoy and several varieties of Spinach). The survivors all endured repeated freezing and thawing cycles, and several periods of below freezing temperatures that lasted for days.
cold frames after December, 2010 snow (click on any image to enlarge)
Last year the varieties I planted were limited to what seeds I had on hand for fall and winter planting. This year I planned ahead when ordering seeds, and I have included some varieties I selected specifically for their reported cold hardiness.
And this year I have more cold frames to devote to the testing. Soil preparation included adding about a one inch layer of compost to each bed, plus some slow release organic fertilizer (5-3-3). I tested the pH and it was fine, so no lime was needed. The spinach was direct seeded, all others were transplants that were started inside under lights and then grown on in the greenhouse and outside. The seedlings were all about 3-4 weeks old when planted.
new cold frames added this spring
The spinach was all planted in one cold frame. I have the hybrid variety Space, and the open pollinated heirloom varieties Giant Winter (Gigante Inverno) and Viroflay. Seeding was done on 9/5 and 10/3. Spinach generally survives our winters with a little protection, so I am really interested in seeing which varieties perform best here. I was able to start harvesting some of the leaves in early November.
The second cold frame (#2) is planted all in lettuces: Winter Density, Black Seeded Simpson, Flashy Trout Back, Radichetta, Kweik and Merlot. Flashy Trout Back is a Frank Morton selection of Forellenschluse with more uniform red splotches on the leaves. Kweik is a butter head with cold tolerance suited for tunnels and unheated greenhouse production. The lettuces were all planted in mid October (10/17).
cold frame #2 with lettuces
The third cold frame (#3) is a mix of Asian greens and arugula. I planted Ice Bred and Even’ Star Winter arugula, plus Mei Qing and Ching Chiang pac choi, along with Komatsuna and Yukina Savoy tatsoi. The Komatsuna is an open pollinated variety I got from Nichols Garden Nursery. Ching Chiang is a green stem pac choi supposedly with heat and cold tolerance. I will compare it to my old standby Mei Qinq, which does well in all seasons here. I will likely harvest both of the pac chois when large enough to use and then replant those spots with some Mizuna seedlings I have growing. This cold frame was planted on 10/25.
cold frame #3 with arugula and Asian greens
The fourth cold frame was just planted recently (11/19), and is mostly lettuces with a little tatsoi. The lettuces are Oak Leaf, Spotted Trout, Winter Wunderland, Hyper Red Rumple Waved, De Morges Braun, Rouge D’Hiver, and Ruby. The tatsoi is Even’ Star Tender Tat, which is actually a mustard and tatsoi cross that is supposed to grow more upright than tatsoi and be very winter hardy.
cold frame #4 with young lettuce seedlings
I also have a small cold frame (not homemade) that I planted with some Senposai seedlings. Senposai is a cross of Komatsuna and regular cabbage. I grew it this year in spring and summer and it was very promising. It has large green leaves with a mild cabbage flavor. It will be interesting to see if it can survive the winter here.
cold frame #5 with Senposai
I will report back on these trials in the weeks and months to come, and share the results. My main goal of course is to keep us supplied in greens all winter long, while testing the performance of different varieties. And of course I love to experiment!