Small in stature and a great addition to pots, Red Leprechaun lettuce is a red colored romaine and an old-time favorite. While this heirloom plant, also known as Red Cimarron and Little Leprechaun, may be small, it most certainly isn’t lacking a single thing when it comes to color or flavor. And, no, you don’t need the luck of the Irish to enjoy this tasty treat!
History of Red Leprechaun Lettuce
Romaine lettuce, which originated on the Aegean island of Cos, has been cultivated for hundreds of years. Not much is known about the specific history of Red Leprechaun heirloom lettuce, but food historians believe it has been in cultivation since the eighteenth century.
Foodies appreciate Red Leprechaun lettuce for its bold, slightly tangy flavor and for its ability to jazz up an everyday salad. The puckered leaves of this compact plant are tinged with dark purple or mahogany along the edges, fading to creamy pink at the base. A juicy, pinkish rib runs down the center of the leaves.
Growing Red Leprechaun Heirloom Lettuce
Lettuce (Latuca sativa) is relatively easy to grow in rich, well-drained soil. Full sunlight produces the best flavor and the brightest color. Although lettuce is a cold-weather plant, Romaine varieties are slower to bolt than head or leaf lettuce. However, as an FYI, afternoon shade is beneficial in hot climates.
Plant seeds directly in the garden in early spring, then put a second crop in the ground after temperatures drop in late summer. Cover the tiny seeds with a scant 1/8 to ¼ inch of soil. Alternatively, plant Red Leprechaun seeds indoors five or six weeks before the last frost of the season and transplant them into the garden when frost danger has passed. The lettuce will tolerate light frost if the seedlings are hardened before planting outdoors, but it won’t survive a hard freeze.
Thin the lettuce when the plants are 3 to 4 inches tall, allowing 10 to 12 inches between each plant. The plant needs plenty of water, but they won’t survive soggy, poorly drained soil. Red Leprechaun lettuce is ready for harvest when the leaves measure only 7 to 8 inches – considerably smaller than most other types of Romaine or Cos lettuce.