This spring I planted heirloom lettuce in my garden from a sample seed package mix. I was pleasantly surprised to see that many the 20 varieties germinated resulting in some fascinating lettuce types. When I thought about favorite ways to fix lettuce salads, I remembered a Wilted Lettuce Salad that I loved from years ago.
The sample seed packet came from a cousin who is a farmer in Idaho and is involved in commercial lettuce seed production. Idaho and the Snake River Valley has very fertile farming ground. Many seed crops are grown in this region and some of our family has been involved in farming there for years.
I was fascinated by the varieties of lettuce included in the seed package. Some were heirloom types that go back years and years; others are more current developments such as Paris Island, Cos. All make a colorful and health salad bowl. My favorites include, Freckles:
This one is Tango, I think,
The deep red lettuce varieties are especially striking:
The Romaine-type lettuces grew well. Here is Paris Island, Cos in the background, and a deep red romaine lettuce in the front.
Growing Lettuce in Louisiana
Lettuce is a cool weather crop. In Louisiana, it can be planted in early spring or fall and grows until the days heat up. (The gardening guides suggest January and September for planting months.) It is in the 90’s now during the day, so the lettuce “bolts”–grows tall stalks with flowers. It also becomes bitter.
I planted these seeds in early March. The leaf lettuce and romaine lettuce types grew the best. The head lettuce varieties didn’t grow at all. It doesn’t take much lettuce seed to cover a large area; most of the lettuce in this packet germinated. The lettuce can be thinned and transplanted. This fall I will have a better idea of how much to plant, how to space them out some so each plant has more room to grow.
A search of the Internet shows that there are many seed catalog companies which carry heirloom lettuce seeds and other lettuce seeds. It won’t be difficult to find a large selection of lettuce seeds to plant.
Wilted Lettuce Salad
There are many possibilities for lettuce salads; one of my favorites is Old-Fashioned Wilted Lettuce Salad. I remember it from growing up; but haven’t made it in years. This salad has a sweet and sour dressing served warm over lettuce or spinach with hard boiled eggs and bacon pieces. The hot dressing sort of “wilts” the salad leaves.
Delicious, but the dressing uses the bacon grease which really doesn’t sound too healthy and it was very sweet. And I’m not sure I want to wilt these tender leaf lettuce varieties.
After several attempts, I came us with a salad dressing that I really like. It is mild and doesn’t overwhelm the lettuce. On the last run, I actually omitted the bacon all together, but I do think crunchy bacon bits add to the flavor of the salad.
The sweet and sour comes from cider vinegar and a touch of sugar; rather than bacon grease I used olive oil. If you don’t care for the flavor of olive oil, canola oil can also be used. The key, however, is the hard boiled eggs–don’t omit them. It’s one of those salads that can have many additional added ingredients – croutons, cherry tomatoes, avocado — added depending on your preference. This salad was delicious. Hope you like it too.
- 4 oz (2 packed cups) assorted leaf lettuces
- 4 oz bacon
- 4 large eggs
- 2 Tbsp cider vinegar
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp dry mustard powder
- 1/2 tsp celery salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil (or canola oil)
- 4 green onions, sliced including part of green tops
Wash the lettuce leaves, drain well and set aside; no need to cut them into pieces if they are small.
Fry the bacon on medium high heat until crisp. Remove, drain and when cool, break into small pieces.
Boil the eggs. (Place 4 eggs in small saucepan and add enough cold water to totally cover the eggs. Bring to rolling boil and then immediately turn heat down to simmer. Cook 10 minutes after turning to simmer. Use a timer–and with cell phones, there’s no excuse not to have a timer. Then remove saucepan from heat, drain water from eggs, run cold water over eggs and peel.) Set aside.
Made the dressing: In small food processor or blender, add the cider vinegar, sugar, dry mustard powder and celery salt. Pulse to blend. Pour in olive oil (or canola oil) and blend to combine.
Divide salad greens onto individual 4 plates. Divide bacon bits and green onions and sprinkle onto plates. Cut each egg into fourths and place around each salad. Drizzle salad dressing over each plate.