The harvesting period for plants brings satisfaction and fulfillment to the farmer. When it comes to buttercrunch lettuce (Lactuca sativa buttercrunch), harvesting gets even sweeter as you can spread it over a long period before the final removal.
Buttercrunch is a variety in the butterhead category which is a category of lettuces with loosely packed heads and shaped in a rosette style. Its loosehead makes it easy to harvest the outer leaves throughout its growing season.
Buttercrunch is a heat-tolerant variety of lettuce that can grow in hotter regions. Growing this plant is similar to most lettuces and can be done in small gardens or even in raised beds. While you may be able to guess your way to growing a healthy plant, when it comes to harvesting the buttercrunch, you don’t want to make a mistake.
Before you get all worked up, harvesting this lettuce is straightforward once you know what you’re doing. This is why we’ll be looking at how to harvest buttercrunch lettuce for the best results.
When to Harvest Buttercrunch Lettuce?
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when harvesting any plant is harvesting at the wrong time. The repercussions are even steeper for delicate plants like the buttercrunch. This is why this section is coming before we even talk about harvesting.
Bolting is a common lettuce problem where shoots spring up carrying flowers or when the lettuce becomes bitter if it is not harvested on time. There’s also the issue of the leaves becoming too hard. Bear in mind that this lettuce variety matures in about 65 days, sometimes less. You can start plucking the leaves as early as 21 days. All this is assuming you’re growing the lettuce from seed.
The best time to start harvesting is around the cool season of September to October in most places in the US. The key takeaway here is that you can start harvesting carefully around that time from the outer leaves. Bear in mind that this depends on when you plant it, as it can be planted in the fall and spring.
How to Harvest Buttercrunch Lettuce?
There are two stages of harvesting buttercrunch, harvesting the leaves while growing and the full head at maturity.
Harvest Buttercrunch Lettuce Leaves
Time to enjoy your lettuce in your salads, stir fry, or meals after growing for a couple of weeks. How your harvest depends on what you’re taking out. Are you harvesting only the leaves or the entire head?
When harvesting the leaves, you do not need to wait until full maturity at close to 21 days to start plucking the leaves. You can start this process as early as 21 days. Leaves are ready for picking when they are at least 2 inches long. Buttercrunch leaves grow in a loose, outward manner where the litter most leaves are the most matured, and this is where you want to start your harvest.
To remove the leaves, hold the maturing head with one hand and grab the outward leaf with the other. Make sure your thumb is inside the leave, and the other fingers are wrapped around the leaves. You can then gently twist to remove the leaves. You don’t want to pull or forcefully remove the leave as it can damage the root or disturb the delicate head.
Newer leaves will replace the cut outer leaves which you can harvest again when it is ready. You can continue this practice till the head is mature, and the leaves become too hard. It is best to harvest the entire head before the leaves become hard and bitter. You can use garden snippers or scissors to cut the leaves and trim the edges. Make sure to treat the scissors with a solution of bleach and water in a ratio of 1:3. This will prevent the spread of diseases when harvesting.
The leaves from buttercrunch lettuce are quite tender and will wilt quickly after harvesting. This is why it is best to pluck it as close enough to when you need to use it. Plucking in the morning or the evening when the weather is cooler is a great way to increase its shelf life.
Harvest Buttercrunch Lettuce Head
One huge plus of the buttercrunch lettuce is that its harvesting season is long as you can start at 21 days and keep enjoying the lettuce leaves till the head matures at around 60 days. It doesn’t even stop there, as another head can be formed after removing the head.
At around 50 days after planting seeds, you should start seeing signs of maturity at the head. Some heads may be ready to pluck at 55 days, while others may take up to 70 days. The aim is not to miss this window as you can end up with a butter plant. Look at when the leaves are full but still tender or when they turn slightly reddish.
To harvest the head, cut it from the base by twisting the head, or better still, make use of your garden snippers to cut the head from the base ensuring the base is still largely undisturbed in the ground. Remember, this is not the end of the plant as it still can produce more leaves for you.
It will only produce more fresh and tasty lettuce leaves if you leave them in the right condition. Trim out the majority of the leaves at the base and only leave a couple of leaves. This is to ensure the plant focuses its energy on leaf production and not shoot and flower production. Once it starts producing shoots and flowers from the center, the leaves become bitter. By trimming the leaves, you’re guiding the plant on what it should do.
Washing and Storing Buttercrunch Lettuce
After harvest, you need to wash the lettuce as it must have accumulated dirt and sand, which you don’t want in your meal or salad. Separate the leaves from the bunch and dip them into a big bowl of water. You can do this a couple of times to completely rid it of dirt and make it ready for use or storage.
For storage, you want to remove the water before storing. You can do this easily by spinning it in a salad spinner. After this process, you can then put the salad in plastic bags and then store it in crisper drawers of refrigerators. You can store the lettuce for up to 2 weeks depending on the water content and damage to the leaves when harvesting and washing. Bruised leaves will damage faster.
Lettuce heads, on the other hand, can last up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator giving you more time to enjoy its wholesomeness.
Tips for Harvesting Buttercrunch Lettuce
These tips make harvesting buttercrunch lettuce easier, more productive, and generally better. By following the tips, you can utilize your lettuce plant even better.
- Harvest in the morning: harvesting your lettuce early in the morning gives you tasty lettuce with more flavor
- Stagger your planting period: instead of planting all at once and harvesting a whole lot at once, you can stagger the planting throughout the growing season so you can be harvesting a little at a time. This will allow you to keep enjoying fresh lettuce whenever you like and also reduce wastage.
- Keep away from the freezer: do not put this lettuce in the freezer as it’ll only lead to wilt and damage. Keep it in the crisper drawers of your refrigerators.
- Always wash your hands after: wash your hands thoroughly after working in the garden as there are harmful chemicals in the fertilizer used or even the mulch. Also, use gloves.
- Leave up to one each of the lettuce on the base: if you want a new head to form as quickly as possible, do not cut off all the base of the lettuce. Instead, leave about an inch of the lettuce at the base.
Growing Buttercrunch Lettuce
Buttercrunch lettuce is the most tolerant lettuce variety to heat, but even that does not make it suitable to be planted during the summer. It does not need the sun constantly beating down on it. Planting during the summer period will also increase its chances of bolting early and making bitter leaves.
You can grow it late in the summer to harvest during autumn. If you’re in for an autumn harvest, you want to make sure to plant at least 3 months before the first frost date. Plant a couple of seeds per hole 10 inches apart, and then thin the seeds to one per hole once they sprout.
Water about 2 inches per week, making sure to avoid spraying the leaves as much as possible. Mulch to conserve moisture and prevent weeds that can disturb the delicate plants.
Buttercrunch Lettuce is a better heat tolerant lettuce species with loosely packed leaves. You can start enjoying this lettuce after only three weeks and for as long as 3 months. Harvesting this lettuce should no longer be a challenge with the right information. You can harvest the delicate plant without damaging the leaves or the head.