Farm Feature: Tropicana Lettuce
By: Chelsea Wallace (Farm Intern) & Kaitlyn Dykstra (Farm Manager)
Tropicana Lettuce: A heat and bolt tolerant Greenleaf variety with vibrant green leaves that retain crispness and flavor throughout the season. Provides excellent uniformity and texture. Scientific name: Lactuca sativa.
Why we grow it: We get Tropicana seeds from Johnny’s Seeds. This is the primary kind of lettuce grown at FoodChain. It tends to do very well growing hydroponically and also with our grow lights. There are a lot of varieties that struggle with only grow lights and no sunlight, and not everything likes growing in water either. We also get really good yields from Tropicana, and it lasts for up to three weeks after harvest. Tropicana takes around 50-60 days from seed to harvest in our aquaponics system.
How to grow it: Tropicana is hardy and can be planted as early as the soil can be worked. It is a cool weather crop and grows best at temperatures of 60–65°F (16-18°C), but has proven to be heat resistant. Sow seeds 6 seeds per foot, rows 12-18″ apart. Cover seed lightly, about 1/8″, and firm soil gently. Dry soil must be watered to ensure coolness and moisture, and for uniform germination. Sow every 3 weeks for a continuous supply of fresh lettuce. Tropicana is also an excellent performer in hydroponics or aquaponics.
At FoodChain, we seed the lettuce into trays of perlite where it grows for 2-3 weeks, or until it is large enough to transfer. We then transfer the seedlings into rafts in the main aquaponic system, where they spend another 5-6 weeks growing before they are harvested.
Health benefits/Nutrition: Compared to most common types, Greenleaf lettuce varieties (Tropicana) have the most vitamin C, K, and folate, as well as the minerals calcium and manganese. It is also a good source of vitamins A and B.
Where can you find it? : The majority of our Tropicana lettuce goes to Smithtown Seafood, who are also our neighbors in the building, so most of our lettuce is grown and consumed without even leaving the building! Smithtown uses our lettuce for all of their salads and on their sandwiches. Various other restaurants around Lexington also carry our lettuce occasionally when we are producing more than what Smithtown needs.
Recipe: Because of the large leaf size, a few leaves go a long way when making a salad! Use Tropicana for crisp, flavorful salads, or add to a sandwich or hamburger for some extra nutrients and crunch. Try out one of Smithtown’s recipes on your own!
FoodChain’s special lettuces with sweet-and-spicy pickled Superfood Slaw, Thai basil, cilantro, mint, sprouts, rice noodles, crispy fried onions and crushed peanuts with Ginger-Soy Vinaigrette in a crispy rice paper bowl.
Useful Resource that addresses hydroponics:
Johnny Seeds. (n.d.). Tropicana Lettuce. Retrieved June 1, 2020, from https://www.johnnyseeds.com/vegetables/lettuce/tropicana-lettuce-seed-2485.html