Speckled lettuce is a Dutch heirloom lettuce. It is a cross between a green butterhead and the German Forellenschluss or trout back romaine. It’s noted for its rosettes of large, apple-green, rounded leaves that are heavily splashed with burgundy speckles, as they can truly beautify any garden. But, they’re more than just the pretty looks. Their medium-size, dense heads of buttery leaves also provide a sweet and buttery taste that no one can resist. And, if you pick them in the morning, they’re even cooler, crispier, and full of moisture!
This variety of lettuce originally came from the Netherlands that even dates back to the year 1660. Then, it was brought to Germany, where it has been widely cultivated since. By the year 1799, the variety was brought to North America by Urias Martin. It first arrived in the county of Waterloo, in Ontario, Canada.
Species: L. Sativa
Binomial Name: Lactuca Sativa ‘Speckled Lettuce’
Speckled Lettuce Trivia
- Speckled lettuce got its name from one of its crosses, the German Forellenschluss, which means “speckled like a trout.”
- In the early 19th century, it became a favorite hothouse lettuce in Philadelphia due to how well they perform under greenhouse conditions.
- Speckled lettuce is less susceptible to aphids than many other lettuces.
Speckled Lettuce Buying Guide
You can find different lettuce varieties that are speckled. Some of which include butterhead, romaine, looseleaf, and more. While they slightly vary in flavor and texture, here are some general guidelines on how to choose the best ones:
- The leaves of speckled lettuce should be vibrant and crisp. Avoid the ones that are starting to wilt or have wilted, and discard the ones that have yellow or brown spots.
- Speckles head varieties should also be firm and tight. Avoid the ones that are loose or are limping.
- If possible, buy organic Salanova. Organic ones might not be as perfectly shaped as the conventional or GMO ones, but they’re sweeter and more nutritious. Not to mention that they’re kinder to the planet too.
- As always, speckled lettuce from farmers’ markets are better than the ones in stores. Here, the products are usually organic and you’ll be able to meet and help your community. You’ll also get the chance to know more about the different lettuces that might suit your needs!
Speckled Lettuce Production & Farming in Texas
Just like most lettuces, speckled lettuce also prefers cool weather with temperatures between 60 and 65ºF.
In Texas, they are usually planted in Spring and Fall. For a successful and continuous harvest, sow the seeds every 2 to 3 weeks and start them indoors 3-4 weeks before transplanting. Moreover, speckles also perform well in loose and well-drained soil with a pH level ranging from 6.2 to 6.8. The soil should also be moist and abundant in organic matter. On warm or sunny days, transfer them onto shaded areas as it is important to keep the soil below 75ºF so that the seeds will not enter thermal dormancy, a condition wherein germination is prohibited or retarded. However, you may choose to purchase pelleted seeds as these seeds undergo a priming process to break thermal dormancy.
Nevertheless, a typical speckled lettuce grows between 3 to 4 inches in length. This is also the right time for harvest. And, you can harvest them in two ways. First, you may cut the leaves an inch above the base to ensure regrowth within 2 weeks. When doing this, use a sharp scissor as hand cutting or handpicking can damage the plant. Or second, you can pick the entire head at the very base of the stem. However, be aware that it will not continue to grow if harvested this way. It’s also good to keep in mind that once the lettuce starts to bolt, or produce a fast-growing flower stem, the leaves become bitter. In addition, it’s best to pick the leaves in the morning as they’re moist, cool, and crisp during this time.
Conventional or organically grown, fruits and vegetables are essential components of a healthy diet. However, many of these contain potentially harmful pesticides, even after thorough washing, peeling, or scrubbing. Thus, what we can only do is to be aware of which items are the most or least contaminated.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an American group that focuses on the advocacy of agricultural subsidies, pollutants, and toxic chemicals. They have created the Dirty Dozen List, which is being updated each year to rank fruits and vegetables that contain the highest pesticide contamination based on the samples tested by the USDA and FDA.
Generally speaking, leafy greens such as speckles are susceptible to pests. That’s why they are often grown with high amounts of pesticides. And, it’s not something that can just be washed away with water. Even after a thorough cleaning, residues remain on the crop. In fact, during the testing period for the 2012 Dirty Dozen List, they found 78 different pesticides on them.
Thus, it is better to buy organic ones or grow them yourself to reduce the amounts of your pesticide consumption.
Speckled lettuces are sun-loving, cold climate crops. They are widely produced around the world, but China remains to be the leading producer, accounting for 55% of the world’s total production by weight. In the United States, speckled lettuces are prolifically being produced all-year-round. California and Arizona remain to be the two largest producers in the country. California accounts for 71%, while Arizona accounts for 29% of the U.S. total production.
Just like all the other lettuces, speckles also come in loose plastic bags or containers. These are packaged and priced by the bundle or bunches. Some stores, especially in the farmers’ markets, also sell them by weight, either by the kilogram or pound. But, if you’re planning to buy on wholesale, go to your nearest local producer, and you can get these greens in bushels, cartons, and even crates. Meanwhile, you can also buy speckle lettuce seeds that come in pouches.
Enjoying Speckled Lettuce
Speckled lettuce is best consumed raw as its tender, slightly peppery, and earthy flavors are showcased when used fresh. Its taste can be comparable to watercress. Thus, its leaves are traditionally used in salads. However, it can also be used in sandwiches, pasta, spring rolls, burgers, and wraps. It also works perfectly as a bed for cooked proteins.
Speckled lettuce should be wrapped unwashed in a loose bag lined with a bunch of paper towels. They should be stored in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator, with a temperature that ranges between 40 and 45ºF. Properly stored, Speckles will retain its freshness for 3 to 5 days. If you dress them, however, they will only last for 1 to 3 days.
Although speckled lettuce is best eaten raw, it can be used in any recipe that calls for romaine and/or butterhead. It can be used in dips and filling, or you can flash grill them and serve them as an appetizer. They pair well with something salty, creamy, citrusy, nutty, and herbaceous. Think of anchovies, bacon, aged cheeses, creamy dressings, citrus, avocado, pears, apples, dill, basil, tarragon, mint, and nuts.
Speckled lettuces are generally low in calories. Not to mention that their calories are mainly composed of water and fiber – not sugar. They’re also low in fat and have a considerable amount of protein per calorie. But, these greens are mostly noted for their vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. They’re an excellent source of vitamin A, K, folate, fiber, copper, iron, potassium, and magnesium.
When Are Speckled Lettuce in Season in Texas?
To find out when Speckled Lettuce are in season in Texas, please check the seasonal chart below. Why is this important? We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye. One of the most salient benefits to eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas now.