Friday, June 21, 2013

Grandma Hadley's Heirloom Lettuce Lives On

Surely Grandma Hadley would be surprised to learn that I'm enjoying her beautiful lettuce in my garden in the San Francisco Bay Area. She was growing it in southern Illinois in 1915, according to her granddaughter, who passed the seeds on to her niece.

 Grandma Hadley's lettuce at a young stage

It came into my hands because this forward-thinking niece donated seeds to Seed Savers Exchange in 1988 for safe keeping.  Now, over two decades later it is being tested in a handful of gardens across the country through Seed Saver's Exchange Member-Grower Evaluation Network (M-GEN) in an effort to collect details on its cultivation and just as important, its flavor and texture. Ultimately, Grandma Hadley's lettuce will be preserved by being offered in their seed catalog. Those who grow, eat it and share it, will ensure that it will not be lost. 

To me this means more choice when I want to grow my own lettuce, which is a staple at my house!

From left to right: Grandma Hadley's, Merveille de Quatre Saisons,  Renee's Container Babies

It's thrilling to grow something in my garden that very few people have ever seen or tasted, let alone cultivated in their gardens.  It feels precious, and a privilege to be entrusted with the promise of plenty that rare seeds bring.

And this succulent, tender butter-head lettuce is worth saving- it has striking blue-green leaves edged with a delicate burgundy and it makes a lovely salad. 

Blue-green Grandma Hadley's lettuce with garden flowers 

Lettuce seeds are easy to save and I'm letting several of the plants go to seed. I'm looking forward to  sharing them with family, friends and neighbors.  I'm happy that this deserving heirloom will live on to feed and delight many more gardeners for some time to come.

Look for it from Seed Savers Exchange, perhaps as soon as next year.

Photos: Patricia Larenas, Urban Artichoke