For anyone new to indoor gardening, growing lettuce indoors might be one of the several things to try out first. Among all types of lettuce, romaine lettuce is commonly served at the diner table and it’s relatively easy to grow on your own. After weeks of care, how to harvest romaine lettuce? In addition to pulling the whole romaine head out of the ground, is there a method to harvest romaine lettuce so it can keep growing? Yes, and you can do it in 2 ways listed below.
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When to Harvest Romaine Lettuce
You have to know when to harvest romaine lettuce before picking up the pruner. Based on the plant life cycle of lettuce, growers can harvest romaine lettuce after 65-70 days of seed germinating, generally when the plant is about 8-12 inches tall. The lettuce foliage is usually dark green and wide open by then, and the leaves should feel crisp and fresh when you touch them.
However, if you don’t mind, the lettuce sprouts are also edible as microgreens. That means you can harvest and consume the romaine lettuce whenever you want.
How to Harvest Romaine Lettuce without Killing the Plant
For those looking for a second and even third yield, how to harvest romaine lettuce without damaging the root becomes the key factor. In the following content, we’ll introduce 2 methods that ensure your romaine lettuce can keep growing after harvesting.
Method 1. Harvest the Lettuce Head and Keep the Stem
To apply this method, you’ll need a sharp shear, pruner, or knife to make the harvest.
Step 1. Grab a Handful of Romaine Lettuce
Imagine you are grabbing your hair for a ponytail. Simply do the same to the lettuce head now. Since you are waiting for a second harvest, leave 3 or 4 inches above the ground untouched so the bottom lettuce can keep growing.
Step 2. Make the Cut
Utilize sharp gardening shears to cut the entire romaine head. How to cut romaine lettuce? When making the cut, you should avoid any rocks or direct contact with the soil.
Step 3. Wait for Future Harvest
Once you've harvested the whole head, the remaining romaine roots will recover from the cut and sprout new leaves after a week or two. Then, the new leaves take about 55-60 days to mature enough for a second harvest.
This time, unfortunately, the leaves won't bunch together to form another tight head. Instead, they'll be a bit more scattered and fewer in number compared to the first harvest. Still, the second harvest should be good to go for a salad dish.
Method 2: Harvest Romaine Lettuce by Collecting the Leaves
To cut off the lettuce leaves, a pair of scissors would do you good.
Step 1. Identify Mature Romaine Leaves
Although you can even collect the romaine lettuce sprouts, it’s still suggested to harvest fully-grown romaine leaves for overall plant growth. Generally, wait till the plant is around 4-6 inches tall with at least 6 mature leaves.
Step 2. Harvest Outer Leaves
To extend your harvesting period and enjoy continuous fresh leaves, start by picking 6-8 lower and outer leaves of the lettuce head. Don’t be greedy. There’s always wood to burn.
The inner leaves can benefit from abundant sunlight exposure, ensuring full photosynthesis process, and therefore grow outwards for future harvest.
Step 3. Use the Scissors to Make the Cut in the Morning
Always harvest your romaine lettuce in the morning. This is because morning leaves haven't yet been exposed to the intense sun, which can lead to them losing moisture and becoming limp.
When you're ready to pick mature romaine leaves one by one, firmly hold each leaf at its base. Then, with a quick and sharp downward motion, snap it off.
Compared with method 1, this method of harvesting your romaine lettuce is indeed time-consuming, as it requires one leaf at a time. However, it’s a more gentle approach and does less damage to the entire plant.
Will Romaine Lettuce Regrow After Cutting
Absolutely yes! As long as you don’t remove the whole romaine lettuce for a harvest, including the roots and main stem, you can wait for the romaine lettuce to regrow even after cutting it.
More specifically, a single lettuce plant can regrow and be harvested three to four times in one season if you employ the leaf-cutting technique. If you prefer to chop the whole lettuce head, you might harvest around two to three times.
This post gathers two methods on how to harvest romaine lettuce while keeping it growing. One is to chop the lettuce head above the ground and leave the stem to regrow. The other is to cut off mature leaves one by one and wait for both inner and outer leaves to develop again. Pick a method and enjoy a happy harvest!