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The last few years I've had success growing romaine and other leaf lettuces. I usually try to harvest only as much as we need for a day (or couple days). That often means just a few leaves at a time Is it best to cut the leaves as close to the ground as possible and, if you do, is there any chance that those leaves will regrow?

Also, if I'm only taking a few leaves from a bigger plant is it best to take them evenly from the perimeter and slowly work inwards? Or better to do one section inwards so you get a mix of inner and outer leaves?

In short, what's the best way to harvest lettuce to insure maximum yield and the best taste?

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

If you only want a few leaves, it's easiest to harvest the outer leaves. There's no botanical advantage one way or the other; It's just easier.

But old growth starts to get tough and bitter. It's better to keep harvesting (and re-harvesting) while the leaves are still small and tender.

That's why it is actually best to just grab the top of whatever portion you want to eat and lop it off like you're cutting the grass. Leave at least an inch or so above the growing crown near the roots and it will keep growing back. That way you are always getting new growth rather than the oldest leaves you were picking one at a time.

Repeat that process until your lettuce starts to get bitter.

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Thanks Robert. Just curious - how far down you cut doesn't matter too much as long as it's an inch or so above the ground? I understand not wanting to get too close to the root. But does it matter if you, say, have a 8" leaf and cut 4" vs. 7"? Would they grow back equally well? –  Voodoo Jun 17 '11 at 17:48
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@Voodoo: New leaves will come out of the root system. If you cut the end off a leaf, that portion will not grow back. Perhaps the remaining portion might have a bit of growth potential to get larger, but I'm not entirely sure. –  Robert Cartaino Jun 17 '11 at 19:00
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