Lettuce - Little gem
Compact, quick maturing Cos-type lettuce with a firm, sweet heart. It is the most common variety of non picking (harvested as a whole plant) lettuce that I grow.
Little Gem lettuce in my garden.
A harvested Little Gem Lettuce after some of the outer leaves have been removed.
A Little Gem lettuce cut in half revealing the crisper sweet heart of the lettuce.
The Lettuce after it has been cut up. One Little Gem lettuce makes a great salad base for up to four people.
It is quicker to reach maturity than a Cos or any of the iceberg lettuce varieties. It is also very resistant to bottom rot (outer leaves turning to slime) which often afflicts iceberg lettuces. Unlike most other lettuces it holds its sweetness even when going to seed.
When I first discovered Little Gem I thought it was a modern variety but it is in fact a very traditional lettuce that has been around for a long time. Unfortunately not that many seed companies stock it. You can get it from The Italian Gardener. It is also available under the Country Value range of Fothergill's seeds. At just $1.50 (as of March 2016) a packet the Country Value range is pretty good value.
CultivationLettuces are best grown in a Styrofoam seedling box before planting out as seedlings. Though in Summer it also does well sown directly. Grow in nitrogen-rich, friable soil and avoid water shock (drying out) which will promote bolting.
If you have long hot summers then summer plantings of lettuce do best in semi shaded areas or covered with 50% shadecloth.