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Without a doubt, lettuce is the most popular crop to grow in aquaponics. Growing this relatively easy, in-demand, high-value, and fast-growing vegetable saves you money on groceries and lets you try different varieties. But with thousands of lettuce types in existence, choosing the right one for your garden can be challenging enough. So what is the best lettuce for aquaponics?
The best lettuce for aquaponics you can grow is a mixed variety. This gives you a supply of lettuce that mature at different times and have varying levels of crispness and flavor. But they all have one thing in common – they are always fresh from your garden. Different varieties of lettuce fall in one of these categories:
In this article, we will discuss each of the categories of lettuce and the best kinds of lettuce for your aquaponics garden.
Choosing The Right Type of Lettuce For Aquaponics
Lettuce is probably the most popular crop to grow in aquaponics systems, and for a good reason. With so many people making frequent trips to the local market to find crispy heads of lettuce to put in their salads and other dishes, it’s no wonder why this is usually the first crop new aquaponics practitioners want to start with in their gardens.
However, with so many lettuce types out there, it can be difficult to choose only one or two types to start. Let’s examine the most popular types of lettuce, and you judge which is the best for your families’ needs.
Looseleaf is a type of lettuce commonly grown in home gardens and one of the easiest varieties to care for. Having them in your garden means you get to have greens with a mild and sweet flavor.
Looseleaf do not form compact heads, but rather rosettes of leaves. They also vary in appearance; some look crinkled, while others look ruffled. Looseleaf lettuce varieties are also available in attractive colors of green, red, yellow, and purple.
When it comes to growing conditions, looseleaf varieties can take time to bolt. They are also heat-tolerant, which makes them able to last into summer. The leaves can be harvested in a cut-and-come-again style, which lets you enjoy the lettuce for longer periods.
The many looseleaf types differ in flavor, texture, leaf-shape, and colors. Growing all cultivars can make a perfect palatable rainbow salad paired with cooked meat. They are also a favorite for sandwiches, tacos, or wraps. If you’re interested in looseleaf varieties, check out the list below:
- Black Seeded Simpson
- Grand Rapids
- Green Ice
- Lollo Rosso
- Ruby Red Leaf
Butterhead varieties are so-called because of their “buttery” characteristic- not just in flavor but also their texture. They are round and form small heads comprised of smooth, loose leaves. Compared to other types of heading lettuce, butterheads can tolerate more heat, but they thrive best under partial shade. Still, they are best planted early or late in spring to avoid stress from the intense summer heat.
When it comes to the kitchen, butterheads can be given even to anyone who dislikes vegetables altogether. Butterheads don’t give off that bitter taste that is common among leafy vegetables. Instead, they are sweet, soft, and tender, and can easily be mixed in a hearty plate of fruity salad.
Just like looseleaf types, butterheads can be harvested in a cut-and-come-again style. You can also wait for them to mature, which is within 65-80 days, and pick the whole thing.
Butterheads are always a favorite for salads because of their texture. When it comes to nutrients, butterhead is rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin, K, iron, and calcium. Below is a list of butterhead varieties you can grow in your garden:
- White Boston
- Tom Thumb
Crispheads form a compact, round head comprised of overlapping leaves. Also called iceberg, crispheads are aptly named for its crunchy and crispy texture. They are also full of water, making them a healthy and refreshing treat during a hot summer.
When it comes to taste, most varieties have their sweetness on the interior, pale-colored leaves. The mild-tasting greener leaves on the exterior are malleable, making crisphead varieties great for making lettuce wraps.
Generally, crisphead lettuce is best suited for northern regions with cool climates. Getting the right temperature for your crispheads is essential if you want them to form dense heads.
However, if you don’t live in cool regions, you might want to start crispheads indoors and transplant them to your aquaponics system when the season permits. If crisphead varieties are allowed to grow in summer, they can bolt easily and develop a bitter taste.
If you fancy an Asian side dish, your crispheads can come in very handy. Making pickled lettuce using this variety makes for a delicious treat. More importantly, crispheads are notable for their folate and vitamin K levels. Below is a list of crisphead varieties you can grow in your garden:
- Crisphead Great Lakes
- Hanson Improved
Romaine lettuce is a very popular variety in the U.S., Mediterranean regions, and in Southern Europe. This is the type of lettuce used to make Caesar salad. Its long leaves are crunchy and crispy, although they have that slightly bitter taste.
Romaine lettuce is readily available in supermarkets, but you will likely get only the green varieties. This is where the beauty of growing your own lettuce comes in as you can have plenty of options.
Out of the lettuce categories mentioned here, Romaine is the most heat-tolerant and bolt resistant. Still, Romaines grow best in cool climates. As for harvest, it takes 65-70 days for Romaine lettuce to mature from seed.
Romaine lettuce is rich in vitamins A, K and C, dietary fiber, and trace minerals. The leaves can be colored red, bronze, green, or speckled. Mixing them together should give you an interesting plate of salad. Below are some of the Romaine varieties you should have in your garden:
- Little Gem
- Parris Island
- Paris White
Conclusion: The Best Lettuce For Aquaponics
And because there are so many varieties to choose from, growing them allows you to personalize your garden based on your preferences. In the end, the best lettuce for your aquaponics system will depend on the taste you prefer and your area’s climate.
For a complete guide on how to grow aquaponic lettuce, click here.