The Q&A Archives: Lettuce turns bitter before heads mature

Question: Even in a cool summer, my lettuce turns bitter before the heads mature. I've tried several varieties and the results are the same. What should I do? Linda Roy Santee, CA

Answer: What's considered a cool summer in Santee, California, is still too warm for lettuce growing, says Vince Lazaneo of the Cooperative Extension Service in San Diego, California. The bitter taste is caused by heat or water stress. The best time to plant lettuce in Santee is either in spring or fall when temperatures are below 80_F and the plants are less likely to be stressed, he says. For better lettuce in your area, here's what Lazaneo recommends. In early March or October, plant seed or transplants in raised beds that have been amended with organic matter and covered with a floating row cover for wind and cold protection. Water daily and harvest the heads young for the best taste, he says. The best varieties for southern California would be loose leaf types such as Red Sails.

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