Bright green and crumpled, with very crunchy leaves and an excellent sweet taste, ‘Henderson's Black Seeded Simpson’ has been grown for over 130 years. It is regarded by many as one of the best tasting loose-leaf lettuce varieties available.
This legendary lettuce was first introduced by Peter Henderson & Co. of New York around 1879, although it probably originated in England circa 1850. Suitable for growing throughout 9 months of the year, it produces lettuce that are a lovely light green colour, with firm crinkly leaves and an intriguing, sweet and delicious flavour. Definitely one for the connoisseur.
Black Seeded Simpson is well adapted to a wide range of climates. The plants are slow to bolt and more heat tolerant than other types of lettuce, it is one of the best for growing in hot weather. It is also able to survive light frosts and mild drought. Protection is required only in frosty conditions.
Black Seeded Simpson is a fast growing variety, the plants grow large and upright, 15 to 30cm (6 to 12in) in height. Leaves can be harvested for baby leaf just three weeks after planting, or used as an early main crop lettuce.
To grow to maturity takes just 45 days. Space around 15 to 20cm (6 to 8in).
It is a real winner for reliability, taste and texture. Plant a few rows every two weeks for a continuous supply.
Lettuce 'Henderson's Black Seeded Simpson' was awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM) in 1995.
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.
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 to 16°C (50 to 60°C); it does poorly in hot weather, and is tolerant to some frost and light freezes. Black Seeded Simpson 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.
Black Seeded Simpson can be grown almost year round. Sow early indoors in late winter to plant out in April or sow directly outdoors from late March.
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 to 18°C (60 to 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.
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.
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.
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.
Avoid following radicchio, endive, escarole or artichoke.
All brassicas (except broccoli, but especially radishes), beat, carrot, cucumber, onion family, pole lima bean, strawberry
The Romans referred to lettuce as lactuca, lac meaning milk in Latin, an allusion to the the milky white sap of the plant now called latex, exuded by cut stems.
The species name sativa (sativum, sativus) means 'that which is sown,' indicating the plant is a cultivated one, sown as an edible crop.
The word lettuce, originally from Middle English, came from the Old French letues or laitues, which derived from the Roman name
Henderson's Black Seeded Simpson, sometimes called simply Black Seeded Simpson was first introduced by Peter Henderson & Co. of New York around 1879.
Commercial aliases include: First Early (Great Northern Seed Company), Earliest Cutting (Landreth), Carter’s Long Stander, and Longstreath’s Earliest.
Peter Henderson & Co:
Peter (1822-1890) and James (c1818 -1857) Henderson were the sons of James, a land steward, and Agnes Henderson in Pathhead, twelve miles south of Edinburgh, Scotland. Peter's career began at a young age as he pursued the gardening occupation of his father and maternal grandfather. He apprenticed under the tutelage of head gardener George Sterling for four years at age fifteen in the Melville Castle gardens near Dalkeith, just outside Edinburgh in Scotland. Confident in his knowledge of plant identification, Sterling sent him to the nearby Ballantyne's Nursery to label herbaceous plants. Henderson's work in horticulture seemed to be settled when he submitted a herbarium of native and exotic plants to the Royal Botanical Society of Edinburgh in a competition in the whole of Great Britain for which he received a gold medal.
In the spring of 1843 Peter Henderson, at age 21, emigrated to the United States to join his older brother James. Like Peter, James was involved in horticulture having taken a position to design a multi-acre rose garden on Du Fuskie/Daufuskie Island, South Carolina, between 1845 and 1847. Peter worked for George Thorburn's nursery and floral business in Astoria, Long Island, NY (1843-1844), for Robert Buist's Exotic Nursery in Philadelphia (1844-45), and designed and constructed a garden for Charles F. Spang in Pittsburgh (1845-1847). These work experiences expanded his career training and education in his chosen profession.
In 1847 James and Peter joined their resources and moved to what was then Van Vorst Township (later part of Jersey City). The beginnings of their gardening and seed warehouse business consisted of three small greenhouses on approximately ten acres of rented land on Wayne Street near Monmouth Street. From here they marketed garden vegetables and ornamental plants to sell in New York City. They founded what ultimately became two prosperous gardening businesses in Jersey City. Their companies flourished by specialising in different niches in the market gardening trade and by adopting cooperative business relationships with each other. James established a separate truck farm for vegetables in the Greenville section of Jersey City.
Peter Henderson & Company was founded in 1871. Henderson moved into a brick and stone five-story building at 35-37 Cortlandt Street. The roofline of the facade had a decorative cornice flanked by large brackets. The name 'Peter Henderson& Co.' was etched on a frieze above the store front of full glass. Large recessed windows defined the four floors above the store. The building was on the site of the future World Trade Center towers.
The New York City store sold seeds, plants and bulbs and functioned as an outlet for the greenhouses in Jersey City. Here Henderson cultivated plants, flowers and vegetables for the marketing of seeds appropriate to various growing zones in the United States, setting the standard for the marketing of seed catalogues and for seed testing. He adapted plants from around the world including the zinnia from Mexico and the pansy, which he cultivated experimentally until he produced a premier strain in 1884. On the grounds and in the greenhouses close to his Arlington Avenue home, Henderson produced tens of thousands of beets, beans, onions, peas, radishes, and three million flowering plants.
The company distributed its first catalogue in 1871 with a colour illustration of verbenas. The catalogues shared with gardeners Henderson's latest horticultural studies and techniques serving as instructional guides. Approximately 750,000 catalogues were issued each January for the advancement of commercial and home gardening. Each year recipients looked forward to his improved strains of vegetables and flowers. Examples of his new offerings for planting were: the Trophy Tomato (1872), Early Summer Cabbage (1875), Sunset Tea Rose (1880), American Wonder pea (1882), Premier Pansy and White Plume Celery (1884), Henderson's Sugar Corn, New Rose Celery (1885), New York Lettuce (forerunner of Iceberg lettuce) and Palmetto Asparagus (1886), American Banner Rose, Highland Pansy, Butterfly Pansy, and Trocadero (Big Boston) Lettuce (1887), and Dinsmore Rose (1888). His last major commercial advance for vegetable growers was the Henderson Bush Lima Bean (1889) that no longer required support poles for cultivation.
An accomplished entrepreneur, Peter viewed himself primarily as a seedsman but gradually took an interest in ornamental gardening. His writings recorded his studies and experiments and reveal his desire to share his work with professional and recreational gardeners. His first book, 'Gardening for Profit' was known by gardeners as the 'bible' for fifty years.
Henderson's gardening firm and catalogue company based in Jersey City and New York lasted over a hundred years. His writings contributed to the community of gardeners worldwide and advanced the science of horticulture. The descendants of both Peter and James continued the floral and greenhouse businesses of their forefathers.
James' own potential was cut short by his early death, but his brother Peter came to be known to his peers as 'the father of horticulture and ornamental gardening' in the United States.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 2.5 grams Average Seed Count 2,250 Seeds Seeds per gram 900 seeds per gram Common Name Loose Leaf Lettuce
Heritage variety (pre 1879)
Family Asteraceae Genus Lactuca Species sativa var. crispa Cultivar Henderson's Black Seeded Simpson' Synonym Aka Black Seeded Simpson or Simpson Curled Hardiness Hardy Annual Time to Harvest 48 days to Harvest