I might have mentioned in an earlier post this summer that my spring-seeded lettuce plants had all bolted to seed. The usual method of dealing with this is to pull the remaining plants and reseed the area with a summer vegetable. This year I decided on a different course; I let a few of my Black-seeded Simpson lettuce plants go to seed.
I’ve been quite surprised by how long it has taken the plant to set seed. After the initial seed stalk came up, rendering the sweet lettuce leaves bitter, it grew at a very slow rate. Finally, I noticed some little buds adorn the stem. They never opened into much of a flower, a little tassel of yellow fluff was all the bloom I noticed. These stringy flowers must have had some desirable pollen though…for suddenly the pod beneath swelled with seeds.
Knowing exactly when to harvest plants I’ve allowed to go to seed has always bamboozled me a bit. I’ll think the seeds are ready and pick the pod, only to find they are still green and useless. This time the plant itself told me when to harvest the seeds by the yellow tassels turning into white fluff.
I picked every pod that was fluffy, rolled the pod between my fingers, and voila, lettuce seeds. Hooray! Even better, the lettuce plants are very prolific…dozens of pods per plant stem. The pods mature at varying rates, making it easy to pick and clean a few each day. Each pod seems to hold between eight to twelve seeds, sometimes less, but often more.
I am planning on growing lettuce indoors this winter as a microgreen. I also will save some for my Spring gardens. Black-seeded Simpson is one of my favorite varieties of lettuce.
One problem I encountered with the lettuce plants was an attack of black aphids on the stems. They don’t seem to do much damage, but hey, who wants to see all those little sap-suckers attacking a plant. A good dousing with the hose knocks most off the plant. Because of the aphid infestation I will store the lettuce seeds in the fridge to keep all bugs or eggs dormant.