The crispy leafy vegetables are extremely popular with us. Everything you need to know about growing and harvesting iceberg lettuce can be found here.
Although iceberg lettuce ( Lactuca sativa var. Capitata ) has not been around for that long, it is hard to imagine supermarket shelves and our kitchens without it. The leaves of the iceberg lettuce are particularly crisp and can also be stored for a very long time. The lettuce is particularly suitable for growing in summer, as it prefers a warm climate and is less prone to puffing than other salads. We have summarized everything you need to know about iceberg lettuce so that you can also grow it in your garden. Here you can find out where the ice lettuce comes from, which types of lettuce are recommended and how you can best plant and care for lettuce. There are also tips for harvesting lettuce here.
The iceberg lettuce is sometimes just called ice lettuce, other names are Krachsalat or, in Austria, Bummer salad. Like Batavia lettuce (Lactuca sativa var. Capitata ) or oak leaf lettuce (Lactuca sativa var. Crispa ), it belongs to the so-called Crisphead group of garden salads ( Lactuca sativa ). In contrast to the salads from the Butterhead group, these are particularly crunchy. In English, it is called beside Iceberg Lettuce also Crisphead Lettuce. Like all garden salads, the iceberg lettuce belongs to the genus of the lettuce family (Lactuca ) and thus to the sunflower family ( Asteraceae ). It is precisely its long shelf life that makes it particularly popular.
Origin and properties of iceberg lettuce
The iceberg lettuce is further cultivation of the Batavia lettuce. If the Batavia still had loose heads, a variant with solid, closed heads was bred in the USA: the iceberg lettuce. The main growing areas for lettuce in the USA were in the east of the country at the beginning of the 20th century. From there the fresh, green leafy vegetables were sent. Hence the origin of the name of the iceberg lettuce.
Since there were no refrigerated trucks at that time, the heads of lettuce were stored in the railroad on large blocks of ice, or icebergs. In this way, the sensitive salads could still arrive fresh on the west coast of the USA even after traveling thousands of kilometers. Iceberg lettuce has also been grown in Europe for around 25 years.
In general, the properties of iceberg lettuce are initially the same as for all garden salads: It is an herbaceous plant with a long taproot that initially only forms a rosette of leaves. Later the plant begins to shoot and a stem axis with many yellow flowers develops. The special thing about iceberg lettuce is its closed heads, which look like a cabbage.
The stem axis is strongly compressed. As a result, the leaves that surround the stem sit very close together and overlap one another. The result is a regular, round head shape. If the outer leaves are still dark green, they become lighter and lighter towards the middle. The inner leaves are firmly enclosed by the outer and can no longer unfold. So they stay firm, light green, crisp, and make up the typical iceberg lettuce head.
Iceberg lettuce varieties
A lot has happened in the world of iceberg lettuce since it was bred over 100 years ago. There are now countless varieties, some of which are also very suitable for growing in the home garden. The ice cream salad is more diverse than you think – it doesn’t always have to be green and round. The leaves may just as easily be spotted red or have jagged edges. We have compiled the most interesting varieties for you below.
Interesting iceberg lettuce varieties at a glance:
- ˈBarcelonaˈ: This variety makes large, round heads with green leaves
- ˈLaibacher Eisˈ: This variety develops medium-sized, red-green painted heads
- “Myth”: The outer leaves of this variety of iceberg lettuce are jagged and lush green
- ˈRegina Dei Ghiacciˈ: This variety gives you large, densely filled heads made of intensely green, crisp serrated leaves
- ˈSaladinˈ: This variety forms large, very tightly closed heads with yellow-green leaves
- ˈSiouxˈ: This type of iceberg lettuce forms medium-sized heads with a bright, dark red wrapper and binder
Find out more about the different types and shapes of lettuce in our special article.
Buying iceberg lettuce plants: what to consider
To give your plants a head start compared to direct sowing and to be able to harvest the first heads of lettuce earlier, it can make sense to buy lettuce plants that have already been grown. You can buy iceberg lettuce plants in many garden centers, garden centers, hardware stores, or at the weekly market. You can also find what you are looking for specialized online retailers on the Internet. You can have your lettuce plants conveniently delivered to your home. When buying iceberg lettuce plants, you should pay particular attention to the following points, so that the plants have the best conditions for growing well in your garden.
What to look for when buying iceberg lettuce plants?
- Variety choice
- Undamaged leaves and stems
- No putrid root balls
- No signs of feeding
- No signs of illness such as powdery mildew
- Preferably from organic farming
Grow iceberg lettuce
Correct cultivation of lettuce includes the right location as well as the right planting time and the correct approach to planting. In the following section, we will tell you all the important tips and tricks for growing iceberg lettuce.
You can also read everything you need to know about planting lettuce here.
The right location for iceberg lettuce
Iceberg lettuce feels particularly good in sunny to partially shaded locations. He likes the soil loose and permeable, it should also be rich in humus and nutrients. Ice lettuce is best grown at a pH of 7. If you would like to offer your iceberg lettuce optimal conditions, then improve the soil before planting with high-quality vegetable soil such as our peat-free Gardender organic tomato and vegetable soil. The soil is also ideal for growing in pots or raised beds.
Where is iceberg lettuce best grown?
- Sunny to a partially shaded location
- Loose soil
- The high content of humus and nutrients
- Ideal pH value: 7
How to grow iceberg lettuce
When growing ice lettuce, you have the choice between three options: You can prefer young plants yourself, you can buy lettuce plants or you can sow your lettuce directly in the bed. You can start pulling out on the windowsill or in the heated greenhouse as early as the beginning of February. Direct sowing in the greenhouse is recommended from the end of February to mid-April. However, sowing outdoors is only possible when the temperatures on the thermometer rise. As a rule, no more frost can be expected from mid-May and the iceberg lettuce can also be sown directly in the garden bed from this point in time.
When is iceberg lettuce best grown?
- Growing young plants: from the beginning of February
- Direct sowing in the greenhouse: late February to mid-April
- Direct sowing outdoors: mid-May to mid-July
The first step in properly growing iceberg lettuce is preparing the bed. First, loosen the soil thoroughly and remove all stones and weeds. Then you work compost or a fertilizer with organic long-term effects into the soil. In this way, the lettuce is adequately supplied with nutrients from the start and can grow well.
For direct sowing in the bed, now create seed grooves at a distance of 30 centimeters. The grooves must not be too deep, as salads are light germs. 0.5 to 1-centimeter depth is ideal for the ice cream salad. The seeds are now placed in the seed grooves and are only very lightly covered with soil. Then the seed is poured on. At temperatures between 10 and 18 ° C, the ice lettuce should begin to sprout within seven to ten days.
After opening, the seedlings are separated. The same planting distance must be observed here, which is also recommended for purchased or grown young plants. Lettuce plants are planted at a distance of 30 to 35 centimeters. Make sure not to set the plants too deep into the ground, otherwise the lettuce plant cannot grow well. The root ball should still protrude a few millimeters from the ground after planting.
How is iceberg lettuce grown properly?
- Loosen the soil
- Enrich with compost or a fertilizer with an organic long-term effect;
- Draw seed grooves
- Row spacing: 30 cm
- Seed depth: 0.5 – 1 cm
- Cover the seeds only slightly with soil
- Pouring on
- Separate after rising
- Plant spacing: 30 – 35 cm
- Do not plant young plants too deeply in the ground
Maintaining iceberg lettuce: the right watering and fertilizing
In contrast to, for example, lettuce ( Lactuca sativa var. Capitata ), iceberg lettuce can withstand short periods of drought. Nevertheless, regular watering is mandatory. As a young plant and on hot summer days, the lettuce needs a lot of water. As soon as the lettuce plant has formed heads, you should no longer water the heads from above, but only in the area of the roots.
If you worked compost or a fertilizer with an organic long-term effect into the soil when planting, no further fertilization is necessary. The advantage of fertilizers with long-term effects is that they release the nutrients slowly and gently to the plant. In this way, the fertilizing effect is retained for a long time and you no longer have to re-fertilize.
Regular chopping is recommended to loosen up the soil during the lettuce’s cultivation period. This stimulates the mineralization of the soil and allows water to penetrate more easily into the loosened, upper layers of the soil. Another plus point is that unwanted weeds are removed at the same time. However, regular chopping does not protect against predators such as snails. So that your young lettuce plants in particular are not immediately attacked by the unwanted pests, you should do something about the snails. Collection can be an option here or control with preferably biological means.
How is iceberg lettuce properly cared for?
- Water regularly
- Do not water heads from above
- When planting, fertilize with compost or a fertilizer with an organic long-term effect
- After that, no further fertilizers are necessary
- Chop regularly
- Collect or fight snails
Increase iceberg lettuce
Propagating ice cream salad yourself is not easy, but neither is it impossible.
Step-by-step instructions for multiplying iceberg lettuce:
- Select some lettuce plants and don’t harvest them
- Let it bloom
- Remove putrid, dead leaves
- Seeds are ripe 12-24 days after flowering
- Tap ripe seeds into a jar
- Dry in a cloth sack
- Clean the seeds
- Store in a cool and dry place
Harvest and store iceberg lettuce
Compared to most other salads, iceberg lettuce has a relatively long cultivation time. After eleven to twelve weeks, it is ready for harvest. As soon as the leaves around the head are fully developed, the heads of lettuce can be harvested whole. Use a sharp knife for this and cut the stalk just above the ground. To be able to store the lettuce well, you should first clean it after the harvest. To do this, remove dirt and soil and any pitted or rotten outer leaves. Now the lettuce can be wrapped in foil or paper. It stays fresh for one to two weeks in the refrigerator’s vegetable drawer.
How is iceberg lettuce harvested and stored?
- 11-12 weeks after sowing, the heads of lettuce are ready for harvest
- Harvest whole heads
- Cut off the stalk with a sharp knife just above the ground
- Clean the head of lettuce
- Store in the refrigerator
- Iceberg lettuce stays fresh for 1 – 2 weeks if refrigerated
Ingredients and uses of iceberg lettuce
Iceberg lettuce is 95% water. The remaining 5% are not to be despised, however. There are all kinds of good ingredients that are considered healthy. With only 14.5 kilocalories, the iceberg lettuce is extremely low in calories.
100 grams of fresh iceberg lettuce contain:
- 51 mg of fiber
- 11 mg magnesium
- 166 mg of potassium
- 22 mg calcium
- 7 mg of vitamin C.
Most often, iceberg lettuce is prepared in salads. The outermost leaves are removed for this, as they are usually withered or dirty. Then the lettuce leaves can be plucked or cut into small pieces and, depending on your preferences, seasoned and marinated. Iceberg lettuce also cuts a fine figure when mixed with other leaf salads or fresh or grilled vegetables. A classic among the iceberg lettuce recipes is the Caesar Salad: This is served with fresh iceberg lettuce with croutons, parmesan, and anchovies or strips of chicken breast. Another use for iceberg lettuce is as a crunchy layer on burgers or sandwiches. The salad can also be mixed into green smoothies.