Veggie Challenged - Bitter Romaine?

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06-13-2007, 02:46 PM
I normally really like Romaine lettuce, but I bought a head today and it is SO BITTER. Does anyone know what causes this, or if there's a way to tell by looking whether Romaine will be bitter or not?

06-14-2007, 12:04 PM
Su-Bee, Hi!

I bought a head of romaine about 3 weeks ago and it was horrible. My friend and I couldn't even eat our salad that night (or at least not the lettuce part). I'm not sure if it's the Canadian growers that are having the problem with the romaine or if it's all of North America, but I've heard it from people all over the place. I've started buying green leaf lettuce as it's a little sweeter (not quite as nutritious) but I've yet to get a bad head and I'm averaging a head every second day. I'm not sure what's going on, but I'm not going to buy romaine from the grocery store until I'm confident that the taste has improved. I will, however, try to get some at the farmer's market and see if that's better.

Cheers, Tamara

06-18-2007, 05:46 PM
Thanks for letting me know. . .I guess I will try to switch lettuces for a while, too. Drat - I really do like romaine!

06-19-2007, 09:25 AM
What a farmer feeds into his plants end up in the consumer. Romaine is a dark leafy vegetable. (which, to be honest, I usually just feed it to my rabbit) Be sure that when you get your lettuce home and are ready to use it, rinse it, and then paper towel dab it dry. Wet lettuce wilts quickly. I usually place it in a full tub/sink of water and swish it about in the water. You'd be amazed at what you'll see floating to the bottom of the sink! (be sure to use cold water, and of course, when making a salad, shred the lettuce with your hands, not a knife. By hand shredding, you are tearing along the water/nutrient rich veins, so you wont lose anything good out of your lettuce, and the rest will stay fresher for longer!)

08-27-2007, 12:19 AM
I know this was a while back, but I think the bitter lettuces are a result of the hot, hot summer we've been having. Lack of rainfall (irrigation is no real substitute) and hot days and nights will do it. I usually have to stop buying romaine once summer is really rolling and sometimes stop buying lettuce at all until September when the nights get cool again.


ps- There's no way to tell really, but the tougher the leaves are, the odds of bitter go up. Young lettuces are usually sweeter. I grow my own sometimes and (here in Missouri) I often find them too bitter by the beginning of July.

08-27-2007, 09:43 AM
I agree - the lettuce in my garden is inedible. It's a really dark green but tastes awful. I do water but as you say, it's no substitute. Other things are OK but the lettuce has really suffered.


08-27-2007, 05:30 PM
I've been noticing the same thing . . . give baby spinach a try . . . it has become my all time favourite salad green lately.

08-29-2007, 01:23 PM
I've gotten some pretty horrible bitter romaine... so I always sniff the white head before I buy it... Yes I am the girl standing by the romaine getting my brother to sniff all the lettuce before I buy one. If it smells nasty bitter I move on till I find one that isnt disgusting.

08-30-2007, 08:58 PM
Ruthannie is right. Lettuce (all lettuce, not just Romaine) will go bitter as soon as it starts to bolt (grow rapidly up a stalk and begin to set seeds), and what causes it to bolt is hot weather. The younger the lettuce, the less likely it will be bitter, but keeping an even temperature control in the growing medium is the most important thing for preventing bitterness.

I grow my lettuce starting in March and succession-crop every couple of weeks until about mid-April. The last plantings I do under my pea plants, which are usually climbing up trellises by then. The shade from the peas helps keep the seedlings cool and since peas are a legume, they fix nitrogen in the soil for the benefit of the baby lettuce plants. I don't plant from mid-April until September, but resume planting in September for a good lettuce crop up to the first frost (here, anywhere from mid-October on).

So yes, look for young lettuce or lettuce that's been grown in a controlled-temperature medium, such as a greenhouse. Good luck!