Text & photos by Brian Vick, Community Kitchen Garden Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
The lettuce has a nice backstory: the seed was obtained from the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants. Thanks to Senior Horticulturist Shannon Smith for putting us in contact with her friend Lily Fox-Bruguiere, Garden and Outreach Coordinator for TJCHP. This particular lettuce is a romaine-style head named “Paris Cos” (Latuca sativa, family: Asteraceae). We have other Jefferson lettuce varieties still growing, but this heat wave will likely disrupt the growing process, since lettuce tends to bolt (or go to seed) in the heat.
Lettuce was an important crop for Jefferson, who recorded planting it for nearly 60 years in his Garden Book. He first listed Cos Lettuce in 1794. Cos, or romaine, lettuces produce long, erect heads that are largest at the top and taper toward the roots.