Bitter lettuce solution

I have some little romaine and butterhead lettuce.

Every year, it seems my lettuce is bitter no matter what I do. Hot weather, cool, lots of N, no N, wet, dry, moist, whatever.

What gives?


Put some shade cloth or other cover over it and see if that doesn’t help.

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That happened to me too. The lettuce almost smelled like milk weed! It was bitter and horrible. I grew it in containers. Friends did too and theirs were beautiful. I had new soil, new pots new seeds. Nada!

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Have you tried compost yet? It grows great in 100% composted leaves, which is really a bit overkill, but I would be shocked if 2" of compost either tilled in or top dressed did not dramatically improve the situation.


We grew a variety called crisp mint lettuce one year that was outstanding. It was a romain type that stayed sweet even in our Arizona heat. I highly recommend trying it.


I have been growing black seeded simpson lettuce for years and it always seems extra sweet to me.

Love the color too… mixed with some darker greens like beet greens and spinach and some fresh from the garden carrots… Mmmmmm Good.

It will produce for months too, just pick a few good leaves from each bunch and it keeps coming

Below is a little salad bar I had last year… combined with fall raspberries - a very nice salad.

I have some started in the garden now, with some mixed leaf lettuce and butter crunch.
I like to make little raised beds like that in my flat garden, and I load them up with home made compost too. Those carrots there had 6-8 inches of compost under them.


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Good to know I’m not the only one thats incapable of growing non-bitter lettuce.

I gave up and started growing spinach instead. Just plant a fast growing variety in early spring and a slow growing (and slow bolting) variety in late spring. It doesn’t really get bitter until it starts flowering. Also tastes super sweet in the fall or if you can get it to overwinter.

Trying lettuce again this year but not doing anything different except maybe direct seeding very early. We’ll see how that goes.

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Anecdotally it seems like transplanting is what does it for me.

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I think the choice of varieties as well as time of planting ,fertility ,watering etc…has a lot to do with bitterness.
My favorite variety is
Red sails .
It’s winter hardy , late to bolt, tolerates Heat, rarely bitter.
And it can get big !
One plant can be more than a extra large salad.
This plant was direct sow late fall , oct -nov. I a unheated high tunnel.
One plant will barely fit in a shopping bag, this is one plant .!
My walking onion in back

Not as winter hardy , but late to turn bitter.
Both were sown late fall , pics taken today. .not bitter.more than I can eat. Good .!


Red sails

I save seed from some the best ones.
This is a single plant .


Other thoughts about lettuce…
I plant more than I need ( lettuce and well about everything else.)
I eat the smaller ones , often thinning around the best looking plants , saving the best for seed.
I let them bloom, go to seed.when I first notice finches eating some seed, I staple a paper bag ( or news paper ) over the seed head, write variety and year on bag, let it stand for a month or so to finish ripening the seeds. Then I just cut the bags off, and store in a dry place .
Each bag will contain more value worth of seed, than the value of one head of lettuce.
So now I have a lot of easy seed. !
I throw this around , every so often , every month or so…
Some does good , some not, ?
usually have lettuce… Somewhere…


10 ft row of black seeded simpson in my greens bed now… next to it a row of spring greens mix… then a row of butter crunch.

So much rain this spring… later than usual getting my greens up and running.



I suspect many folks, myself included tend to get bitter lettuce. I will try your suggestion.

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This might help…

Pick you a nice bowl of older dandelion greens, a few dandelion flowers (especially the green part behind the bloom)… some older more mature broad leaf plantain and eat that with a non sweet salad dressing.

Then try your bitter lettuce again… it might taste a little better :slight_smile:

PS… if you do eat dandelion flowers… know this the flower petals are not so bitter, quite mild, but that green part that holds it all together is quite bitter. Pick one, hold it by that green part, and snip off the petals with your teeth. Not bad at all… and the flower petals have the highest percentage of the good stuff in them comparted to the rest of the plant, stem, leaves, root.

I do eat dandelion flowers and greens quite often - but even with young tender greens they are bitter to me. Much more bitter than any lettuce I ever ate.

Good Luck with your Lettuce.



Be interesting to see exactly how the professionals grow such huge amounts of lettuce out west. I have grown head lettuce several times and i’m not sure if i’ve had a salad yet from one. I know one year the slugs got them, most other years its the heat. Maybe i need to be growing them under leds over the winter in my cool basement. I could say the same for celery. Very difficult to grow. I"m growing celeriac this year.