I couldn’t believe what I saw on Facebook a couple weeks ago—lettuce growing in a glass of water. I had to try it.
The instructions specified that one should cut off all lettuce leaves from a fresh head, leaving an inch-or-two stem, and put it in an inch of fresh water in a bright sunny window. This works only with lettuces that form a round head or cone at maturity, not leaf lettuces.
There were three heads in my refrigerator, romaine, red leaf and Bibb. I cut them all in the manner described and refrigerated the leaves in a sealed bag for salads. Then I put an inch of water in various containers and put the stems into them. All were placed under the LED Mini Garden I received to trial in early February from Tucker’s Pride. I set the seven-inch-long garden’s timer for 12 hours of light daily.
I used a LED Mini Garden in my kitchen as the light source under which to grow lettuce stems.
I usually throw stem sections of head lettuce in the compost bin, so I figured even a handful of fresh leaves would be a plus. I got those and much more!
Within three days, there was dramatic growth of fresh, dark green leaves from all stems. The romaine was the tallest, red-leaf almost as vigorous and the Bibb immediately put its growth into curving leaves, forming a lose head. Two days later (which was five days after sitting the stems in water) I cut my first salad! Leaves were crisp, tasty and fresh.
Three days after placing romaine, red leaf and Bibb lettuce stems in water, there was vigorous growth.
The stems started growing more leaves after the first shearing. I used kitchen scissors to harvest, because the cuts were clean, with little damage. I’m anxious to see how many harvests can be made until the stems finally stop putting out new leaves.
Two later, I harvested my first garbage salad!
The water in which stems grow should be changed every day. I use reverse-osmosis water, which is extensively filtered to remove any pesticides, minerals and chlorine from the water supply. My water source is a well, sunk into a limestone glacier. Distilled or bottled water is a good choice, too.
Other salad vegetables that can be grown from their root stems include green onions and celery. They, too, sprout new growth from stem centers rapidly. Click here to see the growth progress one gardener had with celery.
Don’t throw away your lettuce stems; grow more! Let us know about your experiences with various lettuce types.
Doreen Howard has written for The Old Farmer's Almanac All-Seasons Garden Guide for 15 years and is the former garden editor at Woman’s Day as well as a photographer. She has grown more than 300 varieties of heirloom edibles and flowers in the last two decades.