Who says Italian food must include pasta? With Lollo Rosso (Lactuca sativa) lettuce, you can have healthy, colorful, and delicious Italian fare in your salad. Not only does it make your salad beautiful, Lollo Rosso provides Vitamins A and C, folate, and iron. According to University of Glasgow scientists, it also has 100 times the antioxidants as common lettuce. In addition, the quercetin in Lollo Rosso leaves act as a natural antihistamine to relieve allergy and asthma symptoms.
Lollo Rosso Plant Characteristics
Lollo Rosso, also known as Lollo Rossa, falls into the loose-leaf variety of lettuce. It has very curly, fan-shaped leaves with bright magenta edges. As the leaves grow to their 5- to 8-inch length, they form a compact rosette. This lettuce has a slightly bitter and nutty flavor, making it the perfect balance for sweeter lettuces or dressings.
Lollo Rosso prefers cooler temperatures of 60 degrees to 65 degrees, and it matures in about 60 days, although you can pick the younger, tender leaves when they reach about 3 inches in length. Be sure to pick the entire outer layer, and your lettuce will continue to grow and produce more leaves for your salads.
Uses for Lollo Rosso
Besides the obvious use in mixed greens salads, this lettuce makes a beautiful bed for presentation of meats and other dishes, as well as a colorful, edible garnish. For a quick appetizer, serve it with chunks of French or Italian bread and a dip of seasoned olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
For a salad that Is sure to impress, toss torn Lollo Rosso leaves in a vinaigrette made of 3 tablespoons of pomegranate juice, 2 tablespoons of champagne vinegar, 4 tablespoons of Persian lime olive oil, and 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. (If you can't find the lime oil, substitute 3 tablespoons more of extra-virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon of lime juice.) Slice an Asian pear and toss it with frisée lettuce and a little salt, olive oil, and champagne vinegar. Plate the Lollo Rosso and top it with the pear mixture. Sprinkle the salad with a few pomegranate seeds and garnish the plate with a drizzle of the pomegranate vinaigrette.
Sowing The Seed
Lettuce seeds can be started indoors, or directly outdoors as well. If started indoors, choose large peat pots, at least 4 inches tall and 4 inches wide. Sow the seeds in groups of 4, at a depth of 1/16" under topsoil, so that they are barely covered. Transplant entire peat pots outdoors, or direct sow when the weather has become warm. Do not sow deeper than the recommended sowing depth mentioned above, as Lettuce will require a bit of direct light to germinate properly.
Lettuce will thrive in areas of partial sun, meaning that they should receive about 6 hours of sunlight a day. Lettuce plants prefer cooler temperatures, however this variety does very well in warmer regions, with temperatures of 65F to 75F, or more. Lollo Rosso will flourish in loose, fertile soils, just make sure that the sowing medium is also well drained. To increase your drainage, we recommend adding a light compost to any areas that consist of hard, compact soil. Water the seeds daily to ensure that the ground is moist, but never soaked.
Germination & Growth
Lettuce will typically begin to germinate within 7 to 14 days after sowing. The plants will reach a mature height of roughly 8 to 12 inches tall, spreading to a good 12 inches wide. The plants can be spaced roughly 6 inches apart from one another, in rows spaced 8 inches apart. This variety can be harvested between 30 and 60 days.