Red and green always look good together. So when our fresh garden salad glows with the green and red colors of a variety of fresh, crisp lettuces, it becomes more appetizing. This is when you’ll come to appreciate including ruby red lettuce in your garden salad – or any dish that needs lettuce – as a great move! There are seven main cultivar groups of lettuce, and one of them is red leaf lettuce. Ruby red lettuce is a variety under the red leaf lettuce cultivar group. Ruby red lettuce is delicious and easy to grow. Make sure to add ruby red lettuce to your next grocery list.
Species: L. sativa
Binomial name: Lactuca sativa
Cultivar group: Red leaf lettuce
Ruby Red Lettuce Trivia
- The seven cultivar groups of lettuce are the following: Leaf, Romaine or Cos, Iceberg or Crisphead, Butterhead, Summercrisp, Celtuce or Stem, Oilseed, and Red Leaf Lettuce.
- Ruby red lettuce contains anthocyanins, the pigment that gives this kind of lettuce and all other red leaf lettuce the red color of leaves.
- If you harvest the outer leaves of ruby red lettuce, new leaves will soon emerge, so that there is something to be harvested again soon.
- We’re already aware of red leaf lettuces as early as 1753, thanks to botanist Carl Linnaeus who wrote about it in the second volume of his Species Plantarum.
Ruby Red Lettuce Buying Guide
One of the reasons why ruby red lettuce is preferred over other red leaf lettuce is because of the ability of ruby red lettuce leaves to hold their reddish color when other varieties are susceptible to easily losing the red color of the leaves. If the red color of the leaves is important to you for aesthetic purposes, make ruby red lettuce a priority when buying lettuce at the supermarket or grocery.
It is common to find ruby red lettuce sold in farmers’ markets and farm stands without any packaging, while in groceries and supermarkets, you’ll find ruby red lettuce sold in plastic packaging or wrapped with a plastic wrapper. Check the leaves and pick the ones that look fresh, crispy, and crunchy. Do not buy ruby red lettuce that’s already wilted. Check for any bruising, discoloration, or any sign of damage on the leaves.
Smell the leaves also, to make sure it smells perfectly normal and there is nothing in how it smells that suggests the ruby red lettuce sold there is not fresh or safe to eat. Buy just enough and avoid overstocking your refrigerator since this vegetable is available all year long. If there are local growers in your area that sells ruby red lettuce, make them your first choice.
Ruby Red Lettuce Production & Farming in Texas
Ruby red lettuce is an early maturing loose leaf known to be a hardy, cool-season, heat-tolerant crop that can tolerate a light frost, which is good for Texans thinking of growing this in the state that has its stretches of hot weather. Each one-gram packet contains approximately 500 to 600 seeds. Plant the seeds 1/4″ deep. Make sure the rows of planted seeds are spaced 18-24 inches apart. Expect ruby red lettuce plants to mature in 53 to 54 days.
Ruby red lettuce is an annual heirloom that should germinate from 3 to 10 days after planting. Plant it in moist, well-draining soil that has a temperature ranging from 35 to 70 degrees F, and with a pH ranging from 6.1 to 7.5 and high in humus. It needs full sun during fall and winter, and some time in the shade in the spring. You need to water these twice every week. Expect it to grow to about 12 inches. The ideal harvest time of ruby red lettuce is late fall until mid-spring.
Fertilizer is not necessary but if you want to use fertilizer, use organic fertilizer and apply one week before planting the seeds. Transplanted seedlings will benefit from an alfalfa meal or a slow-release fertilizer three weeks after transplanting.
The best time to harvest is in the morning. Immediately store harvested ruby red lettuce in a storage area that is cool, dark, and with high humidity. Under these conditions, your harvest of ruby red lettuce can last for up to 2-3 weeks.
- Planting tip: plant ruby red lettuce near taller crops like tomatoes, which lettuces can rely on for some shade if it is needed considering the weather or the season.
- Growing tip: make sure your ruby red lettuce is not overcrowded because this is the reason why it has its bitter taste once it matures.
- Harvesting tip: you’d rather have young leaves than mature leaves which are generally bitter compared to the sweet taste of young leaves.
Ruby red lettuce can grow in hardiness zones 3 through 9. Texas is divided into five gardening regions with designated hardiness zones starting at 6 through 9B.
It is common to find small and medium-sized ruby red lettuce. As it grows, ruby red lettuce forms into elongated-shaped lettuce. It has a narrow base while the top part fans out, creating a wide, curly, and loose top. Similar to other red lettuce varieties, ruby red lettuce has red leaves. Some leaves are dark red, almost burgundy. The reddish color will fade at the stalk, replaced by white and green colors.
Ruby red lettuce is available year-round. Ruby red lettuce is grown on a commercial scale as well as on home gardens and backyard gardens for personal use or to sell in the local farmers’ market. In Texas, there are farms like Mike Powell Produce in Coppell, Texas, that sell ruby red lettuce.
Commercially-produced ruby red lettuce could contain traces of chemicals as a result of using different pesticides to fight off pests.
- Aphids – Kill aphids using neem oil, insecticidal soap, or horticultural oil. You can also use the pesticide malathion, which is the most commonly used organophosphate insecticide in the United States, or rotenone, a selective, non-specific insecticide typically used in home gardens for insect control.
- Loopers – To kill this pest, use Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) spray, insecticidal soap spray, or anti-parasite spray spinosad.
- Beetles – The use of man-made pesticide carbaryl or Beauveria bassiana is the solution to rid of beetles. Other options include pyrethroid insecticides like cyfluthrin and Lambda cyhalothrin, pesticide malathion, pyrethrin spray, permethrin insecticide, and spinosad.
- Worms – To protect plants from worms, farmers use pesticides such as carbaryl, pyrethroid insecticides like cyfluthrin, and the insecticide permethrin, neem, spinosad, or chlorpyrifos (an organophosphate pesticide).
Ruby red lettuce was bred by the US Department of Agriculture at Beltsville, Maryland. By 1957, it was introduced to the public and the following year it won the “All-America Selection” award.
Red leaf lettuce varieties like ruby red lettuce can be found at supermarkets, grocery stores, farmers’ markets, farm stands, or specialty grocery stores in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.
You’ll find ruby red lettuce sold in groceries and supermarkets in plastic packaging.
- Some come in round or rectangular waterproof transparent clamshell boxes with a lid made of PET material that can be used both for storage or display.
- Some companies prefer to use a sealable and reclosable transparent vented plastic produce bag made with high-clarity lamination film. The stiff material provides strength for product protection. This is important because red ruby lettuce leaves are tender and susceptible to bruising.
- You’ll also find ruby red lettuce sold in plastic packaging with a Grab and Go handle for convenience.
- Another packaging option for ruby red lettuce is the vented stand-up produce pouch. The design of the bag allows it to stand upright, which is ideal for display and storage purposes.
- Companies that seek to be environment-friendly opt for packaging made from recycled materials like recycled PET and post-consumer recycled PET.
- It may not be explicitly stated in some packaging, but there is also ruby red lettuce packaging made from plant-based plastics (PLA).
Enjoying Ruby Red Lettuce
Ruby red lettuce is a mildly sweet, crispy lettuce. When you touch it, you’ll detect a scent of mixed earthy sweetness and bitterness. The flavor is consistent with how it smells. The bitter flavor is a sign that the ruby red lettuce is already matured.
Put ruby red lettuce wrapped in paper towels inside a sealed container before refrigerating them. This way, you can preserve your ruby red lettuce for as long as ten days.
When storing ruby red lettuce in the refrigerator, make sure there is no fruit there that can cause the lettuce to wilt faster. Fruits like bananas, apples, and pears can do this, as a result of the natural gas these fruits release.
You can eat ruby red lettuce raw or use it for cooking. You can cut ruby red lettuce to smaller sizes depending on what you are making. It could be garden salad, hamburger, sandwich, or wrapped food like rolls and burritos. Because of its color, taste, and texture, ruby red lettuce is used in a wide variety of culinary applications. It is good for recipes that require braising, boiling, or sautéing. Use it when making soup. Prepare ruby red lettuce using olive oil or champagne vinegar.
The flavor of ruby red lettuce enhances the flavor of food made or cooked with other flavorful ingredients like salt and pepper, arugula, dijon mustard, garlic, shallots, cumin, parsley, and chervil. Use it alongside fruits like oranges or pears. It is also delicious with carrots, green peas, walnuts, or almonds, with poached eggs or crusty bread, or with seafood like tuna and shrimp.
Ruby red lettuce is a low-calorie, high-nutrition food. Ruby red lettuce contains vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K. It also contains calcium, iron, folate, fiber, and anthocyanins that contain health-boosting antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory properties. If you are thinking about what to eat, ruby red lettuce is a great option instead of eating carbohydrates, especially since it helps lower blood sugar.