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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, March 11, 2005

Lettuces of several varieties grow in Islands

 •  Home & Garden Calendar

By Jari Sugano

The low-carbohydrate revolution has created a surge of new salad eaters across the nation.

Who would have ever thought fast-food burger companies would be selling gourmet salads?

Salad greens are low in carbohydrates and calories, and are an excellent source of essential vitamins and nutrients. Salad greens such as lettuce grows well in cool climates or during cool seasons. When exposed to high temperatures, lettuce has a tendency to bolt (flower), become bitter in taste and form loose heads. Selecting the right variety is critical to growing lettuce successfully in Hawai'i's back yards.

Manoa lettuce from the farm of Owen Kaneshiro. Hawai'i's favorite salad green actually is a variety also grown elsewhere under the name green mignonette.

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Green mignonette, commonly referred to as Manoa lettuce, is a local favorite. The University of Hawai'i College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources selected a variety named UH Manoa.

This variety is desired for its semi head, buttery flavor and tolerance to heat, bolting and tip burn.

Similar to UH Manoa, anuenue is another local favorite that can be grown at low elevations. Anuenue has smooth leaves and under the right conditions can produce larger heads than the UH Manoa variety. Both UH Manoa and anuenue can be grown year round in Hawai'i, and the seeds are available at the UH Agricultural Diagnostic Service Center.

True head lettuce and romaine prefer cool climates and grow best at higher elevations. However, home gardeners can experiment with head lettuce varieties such as summertime and Salinas here on O'ahu.

Lettuce grows best on neutral pH soils rich in organic matter. Lettuce can either be direct seeded or transplanted 8 to 10 inches apart. Adding organic compost, processed chicken manure and a handful of superphosphate to the planting hole will ensure a healthy start.

Apply fertilizer such as 16-16-16 at a rate of about 1.75 to 2.25 pounds per 100 square feet three to four weeks after planting.

Tip burn is a common problem with lettuce in home gardens. Maintain ample soil moisture, sufficient calcium levels and avoid excessive fertilizer applications to minimize tip burn. Thrips, slugs, snails and spotted-wilt virus can also affect backyard lettuce production. Consult your UH Cooperative Extension service for the latest pest control techniques.

UH Manoa and anuenue lettuce matures in 45 to 60 days, while true head lettuce and romaine varieties take 65 to 85 days. Be sure to wash produce thoroughly before serving.

Jari Sugano is an extension agent with the University of Hawai'i-Manoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. Reach her at suganoj@ctahr.hawaii.edu.