Also known as Chinese lettuce, asparagus lettuce, stem lettuce and celery lettuce, celtuce is a veggie that is grown mainly for its stem. It looks like a cross between celery and lettuce, hence the name, but it actually is a variety of lettuce originating in China.
It is planted just like lettuce when the temps are still cool, about 1/4″ deep and 8″ apart. The leaves are harvested small as the plant grows.
Some people describe celtuce as tasting like rice, but we didn’t get that at all. We would say it is much more similar to lettuce. If the leaves get too large, they can become bitter.
We have also read the stem tastes like a cross between summer squash and an artichoke. It has a very mild flavor, that is for sure, which is why it lends itself so well to any dish that combines multiple flavors.
There is a lot of variance on the internet about when to harvest the celtuce, possibly because there are 3 varieties of celtuce on the market. Suggested diameters range from 1/2 inch to 3 inches, and heights from 5-6 inches to 12-15 inches.
Keep in mind that the larger the stem when you harvest, the longer you will need to blanch it to use in a stir fry for example, and the more likely it will be bitter. We found the smaller sections of the stem to be less woody. We intend to harvest smaller, at about 1 inch diameter, however tall it is at that point.
One advantage over lettuce is that celtuce doesn’t bolt as fast. If you are in a hot climate this may be what you need. Celtuce can be eaten raw or cooked, in salads and stir fry, and it is a fun veggie to experiment with.
Botanical name: Lactuca sativa var. asparagina, augustana, or angustata
Height: Our experience is 12-15 inches.
Growth habit: Part shade to full sun
Uses: Culinary, mostly for the stem; aids digestion.
Last winter we took a look at a product called Veggie Mold.
It was too early to try it out then, but now that we have we are quite impressed. We placed the mold over a pretty small cucumber. I remember actually wondering if we should have used the smaller mold, the cuke looked so lost.
That was almost a week ago.
Now the veggie is growing in leaps and bounds, much faster than any others. We were concerned though, because this is a greenhouse cucumber and this week our temps outside were hitting the 90′s, hotter inside. Add to that the plastic, and we thought for sure it would be killed.
Instead it has thrived and is already reshaping inside the mold.
Then a light bulb lit up…
Star shaped pickles!
And heart shaped ones as well.
What a cool gift for anyone who likes to entertain, or just to make those burgers more special.
So, of course, we ordered a few more molds.
Now all we need is a few more cucumbers to get big enough, and away we go.
Do you find yourself looking back at the gardening year-to-date when you get mid-way through?
That’s about where we are here in our Zone 5/6 gardens, and while we anxiously wait for spaces to open for our Fall plants, we also make notes as to what we intend to change next year.
We would love to hear your thoughts, in the meantime, here’s ours:
1. Start the brassicas sooner. Even if we have to make more room in the greenhouse, we need to get a better jump on these crops. Our lack of success could be blamed on the fact they are planted near fruit, so we’re moving them to the porch area gardens next year. Just in case.
2. Plant even more flowers, especially edible ones. We are finding we have more bees in the garden than in the past few years, a very good sign that we attribute to the flowers.
3. Plan for our family’s changes. SaveTheWorld is now out of college and headed towards grad school many hours drive away, so likely won’t be eating at home much. Since Mandolin and I both work around food, we’re not big on cooking during the week. Our own ‘convenience‘ foods will make life easier.
We’re going to continue to grow pretty much what we do, maybe less beans and more beets. Of course, we’ll also try as many new plants and varieties as possible.
Like the cucamelon, pictured, that we’re still waiting to taste.
So, what changes will you be making?
There are a lot of misconceptions, no pun intended, out there about plants and cross pollination.
Here’s the truth:
1. Plants can only cross with others of the same species, literally.
2. It will only affect the seeds.
So, can a cantaloupe cross with a cucumber?
No, because a melon is Cucumus melo and a cucumber is Cucumus sativus. They are both in the same family Cucurbitaceae, and have the same genus Cucumus, but they are different species: melo and sativus.
Family–> Genus–> Species
This is how living things are classified.
Well then, what happened in the picture above? It looks like a cross between a kohlrabi and a Brussel sprout.
Well, let’s see. Brussel sprouts and kohlrabi are both classified as Brassica oleracea, so the seed this particular plant was started from could easily have been the result of cross pollination. This seed was purchased, so the cross didn’t happen here.
Pretty neat, huh?
In our gardens there are a lot of Brassica plants, which includes cauliflower and broccoli, in the same area. If any of them flower at the same time, the resulting seeds could be crossed.
If that happens, we intend to save those seeds just to find out what we get. Of course, we don’t actually want our plants to go to seed, so it is unlikely we’ll ever get to find out.
But we are having fun watching this one grow!
Often there comes a time when you realize it is better to pull plants and replant something else.
Such was the case this year with our potatoes. We got them planted on time, but the spring turned back into winter, then into summer briefly, back again to spring… well, you get the idea.
Throw in a few Colorado Potato Beetles and the plants have had it. So although it is a bit early, they are being pulled and another crop will follow. Actually, more than one.
Since we have 3 main potato areas, there will be plenty of room to seed carrots, beets, kohlrabi, turnips and rutabagas.
Often we get asked why we dedicate so much room to a relatively inexpensive veggie. For one thing, we have the space. Mainly though it is because farmed potatoes are hit heavily with both pesticides and herbicides before sending them to the store or making them into french fries for our kids.
I read once, don’t know if it’s true, that potato farmers plant a separate bed for their own families. I wouldn’t be surprised, but don’t get me started.
So if we have a bad year and the crop is less than we wanted, we just use them a little more sparingly. It has been better than we expected because of the weather, so we’re happy. And we’ll try to make them last the year,
because we won’t eat any potatoes unless they are organic.
While we’re talking, what’s your favorite spud to grow?
Beautiful to look at and an attraction for pollinators, nasturtium flowers are also edible.
Most gardeners describe the taste as “peppery”, and often say they are similar to radishes. We would have to agree, and add that they have a slight taste of cucumber as well. They are great either stuffed, added to salads, or used as a garnish.
You can also eat the leaves, and many say that if you pickle the seeds they are similar in taste to capers.
Nasturtiums are easy enough to grow, just direct seed a week or two before your last expected frost date, in the garden or in containers. If you want to start them indoors, do so in the pot they will remain in as they tend to dislike being transplanted.
Many varieties have a mound growing habit which makes them very good for planters.The trailing types are beautiful in hanging baskets as well as mixed in with your veggie plants, especially cabbage and beans. They can also be trellised by gently tying them to a vertical structure. Picture some red runner beans and nasturtiums together, how fabulous that would look and still feed you.
The 2-3″ blooms range from pale yellow to deep purple and are often sold as a mixture, though you can buy one-color varieties such as the heirloom Empress of India.
Botanical name: Tropaeolum minus or majus
Growth Habit: Mound or trailing, in ground or containers
Height: 10-16″ for mounding types, up to 10′ for training varieties.
Days to Germination: 1-2 weeks
Days to Maturity: 55-65 days
Location: Partial shade to full sun.
Uses: All parts are edible.
The Jones’ Garden System
More detail on Wikipedia.
- Insecticides kill bugs. Good bugs as well as bad bugs.
- Organic insecticides kill bugs. Good bugs and bad bugs.
- Insecticides should be avoided, and by all means when used, used properly.
Here’s the thing. Some gardeners make the assumption that if an insecticide is organic, it is okay to use with abandon.
It isn’t okay if you are a bee.
There are a some things you can do to avoid the use of insecticides:
- One of the best things Â is to work with nature, not against her. By allowing some natural weeds to grow, by planting a variety of herbs, flowers and veggies, and even by letting some of them go to seed, you will be creating an environment that will attract more bugs both good and bad. Now you may be thinkingÂ ‘Why would I want to bring more bad bugs into my garden?’Â The answer is, to feed the good bugs. If you don’t have something for them to eat, they will go elsewhere and then the bad bugs will find you anyway. Having more bugs overall will give you a better good:bad ratio.
- Bring moreÂ good bugsÂ into your garden, like Ladybugs and Assassin bugs. You can buy Ladybugs and let them loose, but you needÂ something they likeÂ to make them stay. Assassin bugs, besides their huge appetite for many bad bugs, are attracted to Queen Anne’s Lace. Considered by many to be just a weed, it is actually a relative of carrots and parsley, and we think it’s quite lovely.
- When you do have a problem, Â it still may not call for Â insecticides. For example, you can remove bad bugs manually. We knock Japanese beetles off leaves and into a jar of soapy water. It’s easy to do and doesn’t harm anything or anyone else. Likewise, we squish Colorado Potato Beetles between our gloved hands. AÂ saucerÂ ofÂ beer draws slugs and quietly dispatches them. Please try to find a naturalÂ deterrentÂ rather than applying anything that will kill theÂ bugs.
- If you do find you need more help, be sure to read the instructions on any insecticide before using. The only thing we ever use is Diatomaceous Earth, and even that we use sparingly. We only use it on potato plants and the cabbage family, and we are careful to not plant these near any flowering crops.
Now I admit, living in the Northeast part of the U. S. has an advantage in that we don’t get as many bugs as the warmer states do. But then, the weather there gives them a better chance of getting more good bugs, so it evens out.
If you are going to put the time in to get dirty, you may as well get the most bang for the buck right?
So here’s what we do to maximize our growing areas:
- Â Plant as much of the year as possible. For great info on this, check out Year Round Vegetable Gardener by Nikki Jabbour and Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman. Both writers garden all year in cold climates.
- Grow up. There are a number of plants that can easily be grown vertically. In the picture above are dry beans and vining nasturtiums growing up an old decorative windmill. Peas, cucumbers, some squashes and some melons can also be grown vertically. Not only does this save space, you can plant edibles that like shade, lettuce for example, underneath them. Old ladders work great for this, and you can use the steps to add more plants.
- Grow down. Hanging baskets, buckets and gadgets like the Topsy Turvy can add a lot to your garden space. Just be sure to give them extra water.
- Intercrop. Sounds fancy, right? This just means to plant veggies together. One that grows down, like a carrot, can use space that isn’t being used by veggies that grow mostly above ground. We use a lot of carrots in the Jones’ house, so we grow them in between beets and kohlrabi, and at the feet of the tomatoes.
- Plan to grow one crop after another. It isn’t as hard as it seems. We’ve already sown another crop of beets where the lettuce was, and will soon be adding more carrots and other crops that can take the cooler fall temps when the potatoes are ready to be harvested.
- Plant smaller varieties. Butterbush Butternut Squash, for example, takes up much less space than the more typical variety. Sugar Baby watermelon is the same way, and both can be container grown. You’ll get smaller fruit, but probably more so it saves space without sacrificing harvest.
- Plant like the Pros. Veggie hybrids that are meant for market growers tend to produce more and often are also disease resistant. Likewise, there are Â a number of heirlooms that produce well. Check out the veggie names and descriptions in seed catalogs and online to find some to try. One year we grew a zucchini named Cashflow. Yes… we had plenty to share.
- Grow indoors. What? While people don’t think twice about having some herbs growing in the kitchen, many don’t consider growing things like lettuce and beans. With a good south facing window, and some supplemental light, you can grow a number of plants inside. Last winter we grew mini tomatoes, eggplant, squash and watermelon indoors and were harvesting them outside in June and July, mush sooner than normal.
- Jump start your garden. This encompasses a few things actually, but it’s still easy. You can start seeds indoors, warm up your beds using plastic, and use other season extenders. Also, choose some early crops like peas, carrots, all the cole crops and greens.
- Finally, use every nook and cranny. Growing flowers? Plant some dill, carrots and okra to add a little more beauty. Tuck in containers wherever there is an open spot. We once, accidentally, grew pole beans up tomato plants. Be creative and see what you come up with!
How do you maximize your growing space?
July 18, 2015 Tags: backyard garden, Container Gardening, extending the harvest, garden planning, gardening jones, self-sufficiency, zone 5, zone 6 Posted in: Extending the Season, Gardening, Techniques & Issues No Comments
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Depending on your location of course, another round of planting might just be something you can do.
This link from Territorial Seeds, shared by my e-friend Rich, gives you a good starting point with which to work. They are located in Oregon, so adjust the timing as needed.
Another great way to get started on a fall garden is to use this Mother Earth News’ What to Plant Now Guide.
This is specific to your zip code and is a great tool, as long as you don’t mind giving an email address.
Following this guide, we would see that we can plant another round of beets, carrots, greens, peas, radishes, and most of the cole crops during July and August as some of the other edibles are finishing up.
What we also know is that some of these veggies can be started indoors under lights, or in a greenhouse, during June and the very beginning of July, to help insure a fall harvest. The cole crops like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower are best for that not only because they need a long growing time, but also because they don’t mind be transplanted.
This technique is also known as Succession Planting, something that is simple enough to do.
Do you plant a fall garden to keep the food coming in, or have you just about had enough at that time?