Many of these lettuces are new introductions, or newly available in an organic version. Others may have been around for a couple of years but offer superior qualities, such as heat resistance, that should interest gardeners who are looking for improved varieties.
It has been customary to divide lettuce varieties into the familiar quartet of Leaf, Butterhead, Romaine and Crisphead. Lately, the distinctions among these types has become blurred as breeders cross types to create new cultivars that incorporate the best features from several varieties. For this article, however, it will still be most convenient to retain the traditional classifications.
Red Saladbowl A red version of the popular oak leaf lettuce. The leaves are green with red veins, forming a full rosette. It is
quick to grow, ready for cutting baby leaves in 28 days and full maturity in 51, but it is slow to go bitter and bolt.
Green Star A new, ruffled leaf lettuce in a vibrant bright green color. Claims "superior tolerance" to heat, bolting and tipburn. Also resistance to downy mildew races 1-18. Mature in 53 days. Johnny's Selected Seeds offers this one in a pelleted version as well as plain seeds.
Marimba A very dark, totally wine-red leaf lettuce with moderately ruffled leaves. 56 days to maturity. Also available from Johnny's Selected Seeds in an organic pelleted version.
Red Sails A red-fringed leaf lettuce. Not a new variety, but Johnny's Selected Seeds calls this 1985 All-America Selection winner their slowest-bolting red leaf lettuce. 55 days to mature.
Tropicana This ruffled-edge green leaf lettuce was introduced last year by Johnny's Selected Seeds, and they call it their best heat-tolerant green variety, resistant to bolting and tipburn. Also resists corky root rot. 52 days to maturity. Johnny's also sells this one in an organic pelleted version.
Revolution A Lollo Rossa variation, with the frizzy, crisp leaves of the lollo types in even more intense red. 38 days. An organic offering from Territorial Seed Company.
Tango is another new organic variety from Territorial, a dark green leaf lettuce with extremely frilly, deep-cut leaves, exceptionally tender and flavorful. 50-60 days to mature, but earlier if cut for baby leaves. Not heat-tolerant.
Red Cross An improved variety of Merveille de Quatre Saisons, with brighter red fringes and improved heat tolerance. 48 days to maturity. Johnny's Selected Seeds has this one in pelleted and organic pelleted versions as well.
Adriana This green butterhead lettuce is a new and improved version of Ermosa, an earlier heat-resistant dark green variety, with larger heads and greater disease resistance to both downy mildew and lettuce mosaic virus. Resists both tipburn and bolting. 48 days to maturity.
Fireball is not as dark red as Red Cross, but it has greater heat resistance and tolerates hotter weather without bolting or going bitter. 51 days to mature.
EZ Serve is an unusual small green bibb-type exclusively from Burpee, with leaves that separate from one another at the base more like a romaine instead of forming a tight head. Some heat resistance. 65 days to maturity.
Igloo A new iceberg type from Burpee with improved heat resistance and a mild flavor. 70 days to mature.
Reine Des Glases "Queen of Ice," a French heirloom iceberg type newly available from Territorial Seed Company in an organic version. This one is very cold-tolerant but also resists bolting in warmer weather. 65 – 70 days to maturity.
Anuenue A Batavia variety bred in Hawaii for superior heat tolerance. Batavias are crisphead lettuces that do not form the tightly-wrapped solid head of an iceberg and tend to be more resistant to bolting, as well as providing better germination in hot weather. Anuenue is a smaller lettuce than iceberg and matures in about 70 days. This one is generating enthusiasm for its heat-tolerance in a crisphead lettuce. Fedco Seeds offers it in an organic version as well as regular seed.
Cardinale An unusual Batavia newly available from Fedco in an organic seed, it has a s triking apperance with red outer leaves surrounding a green heart. It forms a loose rosette instead of a tight head, resembling a romaine at maturity, in 48 days.
Jericho Bred in Israel, this one may set the new standard for a heat-tolerant Romaine type. It grows a full-sized, light green head to maturity in 60 days. Bolting and tipburn resistant with superior flavor, not bitter. Fedco and Johnny's Selected Seeds both offer organic seeds.
Coastal Star Another heat-tolerant full-sized Romaine with dark green leaves. Resists corky root rot. 57 days to maturity. This one is available from Johnny's Selected Seeds only in a pelleted version.
Marshall A very dark red romaine, the color shading into purple. Heads are upright and tight, medium in size. Striking as baby lettuce, grows to maturity in 65 days.
Photo credits: Images were reproduced with permission from:
Johnny's Selected Seeds
Territorial Seed Company
Reine des Glases
W. Atlee Burpee