Little gem is a compact, fast maturing Cos-type lettuce with a firm, sweet heart. It is quicker to reach maturity than Cos or any of the iceberg lettuce varieties. It is also more resistant to fungal diseases which often afflict iceberg lettuces. Unlike most other lettuces it holds its sweetness even when going to seed, which makes it a good lettuce to grow in summer. It is the most common variety of non picking (harvested as a whole plant) lettuce that I grow.
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.
All lettuces are best grown in a 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. In order to avoid disease problems it is best to avoid watering the leaves.
If you have long hot summers then summer plantings of lettuce do best in semi shaded areas or covered with 50% shade cloth.
A harvested Little Gem lettuce after some of the outer leaves have been removed.
A Little Gem lettuce cut in half revealing the firmer 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.