Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Freckles Lettuce: Another Easy To Grow from Seed Heirloom Favorite

Love lettuce? You might find my post How To Grow Your Own Gourmet Lettuce from Seed: It's Easier than You Think! helpful. And there are links to lots more favorite things to grow at the bottom of this post.

Homegrown Freckles Lettuce and Radish Salad with Easy Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

Realization of the Day:
This lettuce could probably qualify as a Daily Dose of Cute. I mean after all, a dish of baby carrots did once.

Is it okay to grow something just because it makes you smile? Of course. People do it all the time with flowers and other ornamentals. And what's nice about growing cute vegetables—like these heirloom carrots, for example—is that you also get to eat them. This Freckles lettuce is cute and tasty.

According to Pinetree Garden Seeds in Maine (from whom I ordered my seeds), Freckles, which is pictured on the cover of their 2011 catalog, is a unique and attractive romaine (Cos lettuce). Medium green leaves are freckled and blotched with burgundy spots. Flavor of the meaty leaves is great and they are very slow to turn bitter. Will add interest to any salad. 500 seeds for $1.25.

Back on September 22nd, I direct seeded one of my 4'x8' raised garden beds with patches of pak choy, Freckles lettuce, Cimmaron lettuce, and five different kinds of radishes, in the hopes of having some nice fall salads. Why does it seem like the better my garden notes and the more day to day photos I take, the worse the seeds and plants end up doing? It drives me nuts, especially since I have no records (and of course no memory) of some of the best tasting things I've grown.

Stunted Fall Greens 10-24-10 - In My Kitchen Garden
October 24th, 2010

Unfortunately there must be some sort of soil imbalance in that bed. Even though I had good germination—except for the two lettuces, which didn't surprise me because the seeds were packed for 2009 and lettuce seeds never seem to keep well for me—the seedlings all remained stunted, despite plenty of water and fairly mild weather.

Stunted Fall Greens close up 10-24-10 - In My Kitchen Garden

The pak choy, pictured above, really didn't want to grow in a few spots, and there was yellowing on some of the leaves. The few radishes that matured were flavorful but barely the size of marbles. I was really disappointed, especially since I'd been looking forward to some Radish Scallion Feta Cream Cheese Dip. At least my other bed of Asian autumn greens did well.

I refused to give up on the plants, though, and when we started getting frosty nights, I covered the bed with floating row cover, and then an old bedsheet on top of that when it got down into the 20s. Before the really cold weather arrived and wiped everything out, I did manage to pick enough Freckles lettuce for a few small salads in late November, which were especially appreciated since I never got around to planting any spring lettuce (and you know how much of a lettuce freak I am). I was having serious withdrawals—and I'm afraid I didn't share any of my precious bounty.

The lettuce leaves I harvested were small, so you'd never guess they were supposed to grow up into big heads of romaine. They had a very nice flavor, though, and while I was having trouble describing it, Pinetree's 'meaty' description fits. This isn't a wimpy lettuce. I'll definitely be growing it again (in a bed I've successfully grown lettuce in before), and am looking forward to seeing what it's really supposed to look like. Meanwhile, I'll be amending that bad bed with plenty of compost and sheep manure.

There are other heirloom varieties of speckled lettuce you can grow, such as Forellenschluss ($2.00 for 250 seeds) and Sanguine Ameliore ($2.25 for 250 seeds), both available from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds located here in Missouri.

Forellenschluss (60 days) is, according to the Baker Creek catalog, an old Austrian heirloom; the name means 'speckled like a trout.' A superb, gorgeous, romain lettuce that is highly splashed in deep red. Very beautiful and tasty. I've grown this variety in Baker Creek's Rocky Top Lettuce Salad Blend (which I love—click here and scroll down to see it in my garden), and the photo in their catalog of one of a Forellenschluss leaf looks just like my Freckles, so it may be the same or very similar variety, just with a different name.

Sanguine Ameliore is a unique 19th century French heirloom introduced to America by C.C. Morse in 2906 under the name Strawberry Cabbage Lettuce. The small cabbage or butterhead type plants are quite charming with green leaves that are splashed in a scarlet-red as if a red rain fell upon them, glistening and beautiful. Leaves are tender, mild and of a high quality; yummy!

I love butterhead lettuce, so I'm definitely going to give this one a try.

So what kind of lettuce do you like? Any Freckles fans out there?

More posts about some of my favorite things to grow:
Favorite Heirloom Tomatoes to Grow—Mine and Yours
Growing Onions in the Garden
Growing Onions from Purchased Plants—Ordering and Planning
Growing Short Day Onion Varieties from Purchased Plants
Harvesting Spring Onions Grown from Purchased Plants
Endive and Escarole in the Kitchen and Garden
Growing Lemon Cucumbers from Seed
Miniature White Cucumbers: An Easy To Grow Favorite from Seed

How to Grow Beets from Seed (and here's my favorite beet recipe)
How To Grow Swiss Chard from Seed and Why You Should (and recipes)
How To Grow Your Own Gourmet Lettuce from Seed (It's easy!)
How To Grow Arugula from Seed in Less than a Month
How To Grow Nero di Toscana Cabbage (also called Tuscan Kale, Cavalo Nero, Lacinato Kale, Dinosaur Kale) from Seed and What to Do with It
How To Grow Asian Greens for Fall by Direct Seeding
My Favorite Heirloom Carrots (so far) to Grow from Seed: Parisienne
Tips for Growing & Using Rosemary Year Round

©, the having a very strange 74 degree heatwave today foodie farm blog where if I plan on picking any salads this spring, I need to get some lettuce seeds ordered soon!


  1. The garden looks great! I can't wait to have our crops seeded. I think we have about another month before we can safely seed the cool season crops. I hope your garden is very productive this year.

  2. Agreed, we have probably a month, maybe a month & 1/2 before the first cool weather crops can be planted outside here (I'm starting some indoors to get a head start on things). All this gardening prep is giving me early spring feaver, lol.

    Anyway, thanks for writing about this freckled lettuce. I definitly want to give it a try. :D

  3. It will be at least a month and a half for me as well. I have a question. No matter how good my lettuce looks in the garden. The minute I pick it, it goes limp. Doesn't matter when or how I picked it. i have even tried soaking it in water when I bring it in. Any thought?

  4. I finally managed to order some seeds. Lettuce is always the first thing in the ground, though the way this winter is going (and going and going and going . . .), it will probably be awhile before ANYTHING is going in the ground.

    I'm slowly coming around to arugula. I mostly like the softer, more delicate kinds of leaf lettuces, but since I'm not the primary consumer of lettuce in our house (that would be the MiL--she's a lettuce freak like you), I just plant whatever the MiL wants. Mesclun mix usually.

  5. Hey Farmgirl,

    I don't know if you remember, but a couple of years I back I emailed your regarding my frustration about not be able to realize my dream of moving to the country and farming.

    Thought you'd like to know that we made that move in August of last year. We have a couple of acres, lots of animals and a business plan for market gardening.

    Thank you for your blog, it helped inspire my dream.


  6. I love the diversity of lettuce varieties but I still love some I grew 30 years ago. Oakleaf and Black Seeded Simpson still rock.

  7. Oh, that looks good. I love ranch dressing too. Haven't made it in years. I'm gonna give this recipe a try.

  8. Oh my goodness! One taste of this brew and I just burst out laughing. Susan, this is fantastico!!! I almost tipped the jar up and started swigging it. It is spectacular! I didn't have any buttermilk so subbed skim with 1 tablespoon meyer lemon juice. So grateful for my sister's SoCal tree :). Thanks so much for sharing this, which I am sure will become a family staple. Cheers!

  9. We have a nice variety of lettuce going into the ground this year.... a summer of salads approaches!


March 2013 update: My apologies for the inconvenience - I know word verification is a pain - but I've had to turn it on to help stop the ridiculous number of anonymous spam comments I've been getting every day. Thanks for your understanding.

Welcome to! Thanks so much for taking the time to write. While I'm not always able to reply to every comment, I receive and enjoy reading them all.

Your feedback is greatly appreciated, and I especially love to hear about what's going on in your own garden. I know, too, that other readers also delight in reading about your garden successes, failures, helpful tips, and lessons learned. Feel free to leave comments on older posts!

I try my best to answer all questions, but sometimes it takes me a few days to get to them. And sometimes, I'm sorry to say, they fall through the cracks, and for that I sincerely apologize.

I look forward to hearing from you and hope you enjoy your visits to my kitchen garden!