Wild lettuce (Lactuca Virosa) commonly refers to the bitter cousin of common garden lettuce (L. Sativa). It is native to Europe and is called by various names, such as wild lettuce, bitter lettuce, or opium lettuce. The fresh leaves can be added to salads, though be forewarned that the leaves are more bitter than typical salad greens. Once established, wild lettuce is a hardy plant and easy to maintain.
This herb has a wide range of uses; it is used in everything from sleep tonics to soap and teas. Oils and extracts can also be produced from Lactuca Virosa, which are often added to tea to induce sleep. Wild lettuce provides many health benefits from its high content of flavonoids, vitamins, calcium, omega three fatty acids, proteins, alkaloids, lactucone, triterpenes and more.
How to Grow Wild Lettuce
Wild lettuce can be moderately difficult to germinate and will require some extra steps to ensure germination. It prefers full sun and will tolerate partial shade—plant in moist, fertile, well-draining soil with a pH of around 7. Use sterilized potting soil to start your seeds. Using compost or a mixture of black earth and peat moss is excellent for the garden bed. Water the soil thoroughly before sowing the seeds. Soaking the seeds for 30 minutes before sowing will help soften the outer shell and improve the germination rate.
Wild lettuce seeds should always be surface sown—press them slightly into the pre-watered potting soil. They require exposure to light to stimulate the germination process and have less success when covered over. Always keep the soil moist but never let it become soggy. Allowing the soil to dry out will most likely kill the seeds or seedlings.
If starting the seeds indoors during the colder or dry months, it’s best to cover the pots with plastic. This will help raise the temperature and moisture level of the seeds. The optimal temperature to germinate the seeds is around 70 F (21 C). Make sure the plastic is not touching the soil or seeds. When the seeds start to sprout, you can remove the plastic. The seeds can take anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks to germinate. After the lettuce seedlings have at least three sets of leaves, they can be transplanted outside after the risk of frost has passed.
Do you have any tips on growing wild lettuce? Please let us know in the comment section below!