The Story of a Seed: Italienischer Lettuce

by Erin Enouen

Every seed tells a story! In this blog series, we explore the in depth story from seed to pack to art for our new art pack varieties.

komatsunaWhat Makes Italienischer Stand Out: This variety has been a Seed Library seed farm stand-by since the beginning, and we are excited to be putting it in an art pack to celebrate its awesomeness!

We love to tell the story of our varieties, but sometimes the story is simply our experience with it. Italienischer is considered an heirloom, however we don't know the exact origins. For us, the story of this one begins in the name. It means "Italian" in German, and well, basically that is all we know about the history of this variety! The name is what attracted Doug to this variety in the first place, and the description reigned him in, leading him to add it to the seed farm crop plan 8 years ago. It's stellar performance, great flavor, and huge proportions keep us growing and selecting and offering it each year. This is our favorite "thin and eat" varieties: the heads do get really large that we harvest every other when they are spaced 10" apart to let the remaining ones reach their pull potential.


About Our Seed: We've been growing this variety for seed on the seed farm for years. To expand our stock, we planted 1500 row feet this year! We started with 3,000 seedlings, planted the very best, ending up with a population of about 1,500.


To make optimize air flow and  make seed harvest go smoothly, it is best to keep crops like lettuce as weed free as possible. With such a large area of lettuce this can be a challenge. This year, we relied on the help of some stellar volunteers to help us keep the lettuce crop at its best.

Italienischer head

This spring was very dry, and with the help of fertile soil, a drip irrigation system, and a few years of selection work, our crop  performed the best it ever has, from head formation, to flower stalk emergence, to flowering. All that was threatened though with our first rainy period of the summer coming right when the lettuce seed was maturing. Dry seeded crops like lettuce can be lost and ruined by moisture when the seeds are reaching maturity. We rallied the crew and harvested our crop when about 75% of the seeds per plant were ready, pulling entire plants into the high tunnel to complete the drying process. Even though we had to make the call to harvest the plants a bit early, we still exceeded our projections for the seed harvest and are looking forward to sharing this amazing variety for gardens across the country.

Italienischer Quily by Jeanne Benson (2)

About the Art: Applique and quilt artist Jeanne Benson creates "recipe quilts" that depict a dish's ingredients. Here, she has created a German-Italian salad out of dyed fabrics, which includes Italienischer Lettuce leaves, tomatoes, peppers, and nasturtium blossoms.

Look for our Art of the Heirloom exhibit at a gallery space near your by visiting our events page in the weeks to come.