The words lettuce and salad are practically interchangeable since most salads are made predominantly with the green crispy leaves of lettuce. However, not all lettuce is created equal. Packed with tender, deep green leaves ‘Parris Island’ is more nutritious than other lettuce and a gourmet favorite. Determined chefs go out of their way to find the freshest, most tender heads available, unfortunately grocery shoppers are often limited to big heads with tough, strong-tasting leaves. Luckily, it is one of the easiest crops to grow. Seeds germinate quickly and plants grow with little fuss. In most areas, you can grow successive crops in spring and autumn and in mild coastal areas, it can be grown year-round. ‘Parris Island’ was developed around 1949 by USDA & Clemson University, Charleston, South Carolina and released in 1951 by the Ferry-Morse Seed Company. It is named for the South Carolina island, not for the city in France, hence the spelling. It is a widely adapted Romaine type lettuce that produces an upright head of strong leaves, with a distinctive crisp white midrib. Known as a favorite of both market growers and home gardeners, it is heat tolerant with fair bolt resistance. They are usually grown out to full size to harvest, although they are becoming more popular for baby or young leaf use. Lettuce Parris Island has been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
Prepare the site: A rich soil is excellent for lettuce, but the crop will also do well in average garden soil. The best crops are grown in soil that is deeply enriched with well-rotted manure and is well-fertilized before planting, especially with high nitrogen--leaf-stimulating--fertilizers such as 10-8-4, cottonseed meal, or blood meal. Lettuce doesn't do well in very acidic soils, and some say the pH shouldn't be lower than 6.5.
Timing: Lettuce is about 95 percent water. It develops rapidly if the growing season is cool and moist. It can grow from seed to salad in about 1 month in many regions, and only a little longer in others. Lettuce is a cool-season vegetable, with an ideal temperature of 10-16°C (50-60°C); it does poorly in hot weather, and is tolerant to some frost and light freezes. Cos is more heat tolerant than most. The secret of having salad leaves in spring is to sow them in late summer and the New Year, the first to overwinter and the second to provide an in-between harvest before the spring sowings become big enough to pick.
Sowing: Sow indoors under protection: Feb to Mar (Plant out April) or sow directly outdoors: Mar to Aug Lettuce germinate at surprisingly low temperatures The perfect temperature for germination is 4 to 16°C (40-60°F) rates decline above 20°C (68°F). The perfect temperature for growth is 16-18°C (60-65°F) Sow at a seed depth of 6 to 12mm (¼-½in) Seed will germinate in 7 to 14 days. Sow seeds in short rows about 30cm (12in) apart. To do this, make a shallow trench with a cane about 1.5cm (½in) deep. Space the rows 20cm (8in) apart. If you are sowing directly into the soil, (if you do not have a problem with slugs!), water the drill before sowing to cool the soil down. A shaded part of the garden is ideal. If birds are a problem in your garden, spread netting to prevent them eating the seed. Tip a small amount of seed into your hand, take a pinch and spread thinly along the trench. Cover with soil, label and water. When the seedlings are about 2cm (1in) tall, thin them out to give them space to grow, 15-20cm (6-8in). Replant or eat the seedlings. Make successional sowings at 14 day intervals.
Cultivation: In summer, a mulch of grass clippings, salt hay, clean straw, or the like, will keep the weeds out and the growing soil moist and cool. The plants need almost constantly moist ground, watering is essential if rainfall is scant. This is particularly important when the lettuces are one or two weeks away from harvesting, as dry soil now will cause the plants to put their energy into producing flowers. The key to tender and tasty lettuce is rapid growth, however lettuce has a relatively shallow and compact root system that doesn't absorb nutrients and moisture from the soil very efficiently, which can slow the growth. To encourage fast growth, add plenty of finished compost before planting and again as a side-dressing a week or so after seedlings appear or transplants are planted. Give supplemental feedings of compost tea every few weeks until harvest.
Pests: Aphids – Wash off minor infestations before the plants are eaten. If there is a heavy population grow nasturtiums near the lettuce, or use an organic solution.
Harvesting: 60 days to maturity. Harvest all lettuce in early morning for the maximum carotene and best taste and refrigerate immediately. Harvest as soon as they are big enough for the salad bowl. The harvest is over when a central stem starts to form. This is the signal that the plant is getting ready to bolt and the leaves start to get bitter.
Rotation considerations: Avoid following radicchio, endive, escarole or artichoke.
Good Companions: All brassicas (except broccoli, but especially radishes), beat, carrot, cucumber, onion family, pole lima bean, strawberry
Bad Companions: None
Nomenclature: ‘Parris Island’ is a widely adapted Romaine type lettuce, developed around 1949 by USDA & Clemson University, Charleston, South Carolina and released in 1951 by the Ferry-Morse Seed Company> It is named for the South Carolina island, not for the city in France, hence the spelling. Native to Western Europe and the eastern Mediterranean area, it is called cos or cos lettuce (mainly with British-speaking peoples) because it is said to have originated on the Greek island of Cos (Kos), off the coast of Turkey in the Aegean Sea. It has been cultivated and eaten cooked or raw for almost 5,000 years and may very well be the oldest form of cultivated lettuce. Egyptian tombs reveal paintings of lettuce with long, pointed leaves, resembling romaine. It was known to the Romans, who usually ate lettuce cooked, as Cappadocian lettuce, and was called Roman lettuce due to the Romans belief in its healthful and healing properties. It is said that in the 14th century when the Popes of the Roman Catholic Church temporarily moved from Rome to Avignon, they brought this variety of lettuce with them, calling it Avignon lettuce. The earliest English name for it was Roman lettuce, around the 17th century. The source of the English romaine is from the French laitue romaine, Italians call it lattuga romana. A white latex oozes from its leaf base and the thicker ribs of older, larger leaves and is reflected in its Latin name ‘Lactuca’, which means milk. Lettuce juice was used as a medicine by many ancient herbalists. According to Pliny, the emperor Augustus Caesar is said to have put up a statue to honour its healing abilities after being cured of a serious illness. See recipes for Caesar Salad for the ultimate use of this popular lettuce.
|Packet Size||2.5 grams|
|Average Seed Count||2,250 Seeds|
|Species||sativa var. longifolia|
|Common Name||Romaine or Cos
Heritage (USA 1950)
|Other Common Names||No|
|Natural Flower Time||No|
|Time to Harvest||6 - 8 weeks May-October|
|Soil||Neutral or alkaline.|
|Time to Sow||No|