Bitter Lettuce

Bitter Lettuce: What makes lettuce bitter?

An Introduction to Lettuce

Lettuce (Scientific name: Lectusa Satuva) is most commonly used as an ingredient in salads. But that’s not a limitation to its vivid range of usage. In addition to salads, lettuce can also appear in sandwiches, soups, wraps, and as a grilling vegetable. With the increasing popularity of green products worldwide, lettuce has gained a lot of importance not only for food applications, but also for a variety of other applications. Lettuce offers a range of health benefits. Lettuce is rich in folate and table iron. Lettuce is must have choice on your breakfast/dining table in the form of fresh salads and what not. It’s affordable too!

Lettuce is a leafy crop which usually grows in cool, moist atmosphere. The best season for growing lettuce is early spring reason being its warm maintained atmosphere. Hydroponic systems let lettuce grow year-round, in cooler climates. In cities with hotter weather, it’s possible to grow lettuce crop throughout winter-tide.

With summer’s longer days and hotter temperatures, lettuce bolts more easily, making lettuce cultivation more challenging. Isn’t it summer in which the crispy lettuce you used to love turned bitter? Are you interested in discovering what occurred to your wonderful, crispy lettuce over night? If yes, then hold on, you are at right place here.

Lettuce: Why Does It Tsaste Bitter?

In the summertime, google search engine is flooded with the questions like “what makes my lettuce taste bitter?” Or “why does lettuce tastes bitter to me?” Or “Are bitter lettuce edible?” and many more.  There are plenty of possible reasons behind bitterness of lettuce. The most common rationales behind the bitter lettuce are listed below.

  • Summer heat: If you ask above question to gardeners around the world, 90% of them will claim summer heat to be a significant reason behind transformation of your crisp, sweet lettuce into a bitter one. Yes, you read it right. Majority of gardeners consider hot summer heat to be the prime reason behind bitterness of your lettuce. Traditionally, lettuce is a vegetable to be grown in the cool season. So, plants mature in response to rising temperatures and bolt – producing a stalk and flowers. This process is responsible for producing bitter lettuce. There is no way to stop this natural process, but it is not the only explanation for the bitterness of lettuce.
  • Lettuce sap: Many a times lettuce sap is considered as the root cause of bitter lettuce. Lettuce sap also commonly known as lettuce milk is the milky white fluid that your lettuce secrets during harvesting. As you harvest lettuce leaves, milky white sap will flow from the bases of leaves. This indicates that your lettuce is about to bolt. Though it makes your lettuce bitter, it’s completely safe to consume. Observe when your lettuce starts producing more sap by regularly harvesting outer, bigger leaves. When this happens, you should harvest all of the lettuce before it becomes too bitter.
  • Lack of water: It is also possible to have bitter lettuce due to insufficient water. For those huge lettuce leaves to remain lush and sweet, they require a lot of water. If your lettuce is browning on the edges, it’s either dehydrated or damaged by close cultivation. Maintain regular watering. It’s important to keep the bed moist.
  • Improper nutrients:  Fast growth is essential for lettuce. The growth of lettuce is stunted without the proper nutrients, so the leaves taste bitter. Make sure to fertilize regularly, but do not overdo it. The presence of too much nitrogen has also been linked to bitter lettuce.
  • Aster yellows disease: An aster yellows disease is brought on by several organisms that look like bacteria called phytoplasmas. It is spread by infected plants to healthy ones through aster yellows virus. Yellow aster disease does not only affect asters, but over 300 different species of plants. The disease aster yellows can lead to bitter lettuce. The outer leaves of the plant become stunted when exposed to this infection and the inner leaves lose its color. It is possible for the entire plant to become deformed!

A person’s region, the current growing conditions, and even the variety all affect how bitter lettuce plants are.

What to do with bitter lettuce? How to reduce bitterness of lettuce

Growing lettuce in the garden is relatively easy (or in containers); however, it can easily switch from sweet and juicy to bitter in a short amount of time.

Now that we have come to know about the possible causes of bitter lettuce, let’s have a look at solutions that we can implement in our day-to-day life.

You might want to avoid letting your lettuce turn bitter if you can. Even if it bolts, there are some measures you can take to lessen its bitterness. The maturation process is what likely caused your bitter lettuce. Whether you like it or not, Mother Nature is powerless to stop, but you can postpone the results. By mulching your lettuce, you can keep the roots cool and trick your lettuce into thinking it’s still spring. Provide your lettuce with shade by planting taller crops when the weather is warmer. Despite lettuce’s relative ease of planting and growing, soil needs to be handled carefully. Despite lettuce’s relative ease of planting and growing, soil needs to be handled carefully. In addition to retaining moisture, organic matter ensures that lettuce absorbs enough nutrients for a sweet taste.  Also, succession planting will prolong the growing season. You can try adding wood ash to your soil if you suspect nitrogen might be causing your bitter tasting lettuce.

People have found that soaking bitter lettuce before using it helps them deal with the bitter taste. Try this method: Separate the lettuce leaves, add a little baking soda and cold water into a bowl. Rinse the leaves thoroughly in cold water after soaking five to ten minutes, and then soak again for about a few minutes. Use after draining. If the bitter lettuce is too strong for you, you can try freezing it for 24 to 48 hours.

Cooking lettuce can rid it of its bitter flavour for all those who can’t remove it. To keep lettuce from becoming bitter, we recommend mixing it with something sweet, like spinach or silverbeet when cooking greens. It’s a lovely way to use up lettuce that’s past its prime, without throwing it away, to mix wilted greens with mushrooms and another veggie (for instance, asparagus).

Therefore, do not throw away your lettuce just yet if it has turned bitter. Check if you can revive it and if not, prepare it. Greens aren’t dead yet.

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