Lettuce Love: Unique Heirloom Varieties for Your Edimental Haven

A beautiful lush heirloom garden with colourful heritage lettuce varieties growing. Butterflies are in the background and rare flowers are growing in the midst of the red and green lettuce.  Garden Faerie Botanicals. Heirloom Seeds Canada

What is an Edimental Garden?

Have you heard about edimental gardens? They are a delightful fusion of ‘edible’ and ‘ornamental’, and it’s exactly what it sounds like – a garden space that’s both pleasing to the eye and bountiful on the plate. This type of gardening approach mixes food-producing plants with ornamental species to create a landscape that’s functional, gorgeous, and create food security. It is the perfect way to grow food for those with small yards and established flower gardens. Also, what a better way to amp up this garden style than with heirloom veggies? They are not just plants; they are living pieces of history!

Lettuce Introduce Some Heirlooms!

Lolla Rossa: A Frilly Showstopper

‘This isn’t your everyday green iceberg lettuce. No, this Italian heirloom is all about drama with its deep red, frilly leaves that seem to dance in the garden. But it’s not just a pretty face; it brings a unique, slightly nutty flavor to your salads.

Lolla Rossa is a classic Italian heirloom variety that dates back to the 17th century. Originating in Italy, a country known for its love affair with flavourful and diverse greens, it quickly became a staple in Italian kitchens. Lolla Rosa’s’ deep red, frilly leaves that create a dramatic flair in the garden are more than just visually appealing; they carry with them centuries of Italian culinary tradition. The slightly nutty flavor it brings to salads is a testament to its enduring popularity through generations of gardeners and chefs.

Cimmaron Romaine: The Crimson Crunch

Step aside, green Romaine! Cimmaron, an heirloom from the 18th century, boasts deep red leaves with a crunch that’s second to none. Its robust texture and slightly bitter taste make it perfect for Caesar salads with a twist. This is one of my favorite varieties due to its buttery leaves and outstanding performance in the summer garden.

The Cimmaron is an esteemed heirloom variety that has stood the test of time. This type of romaine lettuce, also known as ‘Red Romaine’, has deep roots in the Mediterranean region, where its striking deep red leaves and robust texture were first cultivated and adored. Historically, it was valued not only for its unique appearance but also for its nutritional properties. Its slightly bitter taste, characteristic of many traditional greens, is a nod to the old-world flavours cherished by past generations.

Forellenschluss: Speckled and Spectacular

Forellenschluss, or Speckled Trout Back, is a heirloom from Austria. This romaine type lettuce is stunning – growing green leaves speckled with maroon. Beyond its striking appearance, it has a sweet, buttery flavour that’s absolutely divine.

Also called Flashy Trout Back lettuce, yet known as Forellenschluss in its native Austria and surrounding regions, this heirloom variety is cherished for its distinctive appearance and delicate flavour. Originating in Europe during the 19th century, its name, which translates to ‘trout’s back,’ is inspired by the maroon speckles that resemble the patterns on a trout’s skin, adorning its leaves. This lettuce quickly gained popularity for its ornamental beauty and mild, sweet flavour, becoming a favourite among gardeners and chefs alike. Its speckled appearance not only adds visual interest to garden beds but also enhances salads and culinary creations.

Beyond its visual allure, the Flashy Trout Back lettuce holds historical significance, reflecting the gardening trends of the 19th century. During this period, ornamental vegetables were highly prized for their aesthetic qualities. Its popularity has endured over the years, with modern gardeners and foodies continuing to enjoy its timeless beauty and delicate flavour. As an heirloom variety, the Flashy Trout Back lettuce serves as a link to the rich culinary heritage of Europe, preserving traditions while delighting diners with its unique characteristics.

Oak Leaf Lettuce: The Timeless Leafy Heirloom

Did you know Oak Leaf Lettuce could moonlight as a garden hide-and-seek champion? Its unique shape allows it to blend right in with ornamentals, making it a delightful surprise amongst the blooms.

This heirloom variety is celebrated for its distinct lobed leaves, resembling those of an oak tree. Its history traces back to Europe, where it has been documented since at least the 17th century. The name Oak Leaf originates from the resemblance of its leaves to those of the oak tree. While quickly gaining popularity across Europe, it was later introduced to the New World, becoming a staple in both European and American culinary traditions. Oak Leaf’s soft, buttery taste and unique leaf shape made it highly desirable for salads and kitchen gardens. Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States and an avid gardener, grew Oak Leaf Lettuce in his Monticello garden, contributing to its popularity in early American agriculture.

Red Deer Tongue Lettuce: A Slice of Colonial America

This lettuce is like the underdog of a vegetable superhero movie – bold, unique, and packed with personality, adding a splash of color and a story to every salad. With elongated, arrowhead-shaped, deep red leaves, it is both a historical gem and a culinary delight, known for its slightly nutty flavour and tender texture.

Red Deer Tongue Lettuce is believed to have European origins, but it became widely cultivated in America during the colonial period. Its roots go back to the gardens of early American settlers as they favoured this variety for its deep red, elongated leaves and unique flavour. Its name likely originates from its resemblance to the tongue of a red deer and it symbolizes the resilience and adaptability of early American agriculture, as it thrived in various climates and soils across the American colonies.

Paris Island Cos: The Romaine of Ancient Empires

Imagine chomping down on a leaf of Paris Island Cos and time traveling back to ancient Rome. This heirloom romaine lettuce, with its tall, dark green leaves, is a testament to time. It’s revered for its crisp texture and is a historical pillar in classic Caesar salads.

Paris Island Cos lettuce, commonly known as Romaine lettuce, boasts a rich history dating back to ancient civilizations such as Greece and Rome. Originating in the Mediterranean region, this heirloom lettuce variety is characterized by its tall, upright growth and crisp, dark green leaves.

In ancient times, Romaine lettuce was highly regarded for its versatility in culinary applications. It was a staple ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine, valued for its refreshing crunch and mild, slightly bitter flavor. Its sturdy leaves made it an ideal choice for wrapping fillings or serving as a base for salads and other dishes.

Sanguine Ameliore: The Aristocrat of Lettuce

Serving Sanguine Ameliore? That’s not just a salad; that’s an aristocratic feast for the eyes and the taste buds, bringing a touch of Versailles to your veggie patch. This heirloom variety was revered for its deep crimson leaves and found in the aristocratic gardens of 18th century France. Known for its striking appearance and distinct slightly bitter flavour, it quickly became synonymous with sophistication and elegance, earning its place as a staple in French haute cuisine.

Cultivated with care in the opulent gardens of French aristocracy, Sanguine Ameliore lettuce was more than just a culinary ingredient; it was a symbol of status and refinement. Its intense colour and delicate flavour profile made it a sought-after addition to salads and other gourmet dishes.

Even today, Sanguine Ameliore lettuce remains a beloved heirloom variety, cherished for its rich history and aesthetic appeal. Its cultivation continues to follow centuries-old traditions, ensuring that this aristocratic lettuce remains a timeless favourite in gardens and kitchens around the world.

Growing Heirloom Lettuce in Your Edimental Garden

I bet you are now ready to get these tasty beauties into your ornamental garden, right? Heirloom lettuce generally prefers cooler weather, so planting them in early spring or fall is ideal. In order to germinate, they need the temperature to be below 26 degree Celsius. Consider putting the tray in a cool basement during heatwaves! They love well-drained soil and a bit of shade in the hotter parts of the day. Keep them watered, but don’t overdo it. A good rule of thumb is to water when the soil feels dry to the touch, which is every day when it is hot outside! Mulching will cut down on the need to be watering so often.

From Garden to Table

Not only does heirloom lettuce add character to your garden, but they also bring a burst of colour and flavour to your table. Imagine garnishing your dishes with the curly red tips of ‘Lolla Rossa’ or adding the historical crunch of ‘Cimmaron’ to your favourite salad. Plus, you’re eating a slice of history!

Preserving Diversity and History

By growing heritage lettuce, you’re doing more than just planting a nice flower garden in your front yards edimental garden. You are a part of a growing movement to preserve biodiversity and keep the stories of these varieties alive. Every bite is a connection to gardeners and farmers from centuries past. Leave a few lettuce to bolt and sabe the seed for next year!


Q: Can I grow heirloom lettuce in containers? A: Absolutely! Just make sure they have enough room to grow and receive adequate sunlight and water.

Q: How do I harvest heirloom lettuce without harming the plant? A: Gently pick the outer leaves, allowing the center to continue growing. This “cut-and-come-again” method maximizes your harvest.

Wrapping Up This Leafy Journey

There you have it! A look into the colorful and flavourful world of heirloom lettuce growing in edimental gardens. As you marvel at the beauty and taste of lettuce from long ago, remember that you are not just a gardener; you are a custodian of history and biodiversity, that is, if you save the seeds! To find more heirloom lettuce varieties visit Garden Faerie Botanicals Online Shop. See you in the edimantal garden!

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