If you’re here because you’re interested in planting Buttercrunch lettuce, you’ve made an excellent choice! Buttercrunch lettuce certainly lives up to its delicious name.
Buttercrunch lettuce is a gourmet butterhead variety known for its smooth and tender green leaves. It has a truly butter-like mild sweet flavor and satisfying crisp, crunchy green leaves. The plants form soft heads with an open bunched rosette of leaves and are easy to grow, heat-tolerant, and tend not to go bitter. Baby leaves are ready to harvest in under a month while full-size heads take about 45-50 days to reach maturity.
Read on to learn all about Buttercrunch lettuce!
Buttercrunch lettuce basics
Buttercrunch lettuce is a cultivar of butterhead-type lettuces that’s an old favorite in the vegetable garden. Developed at Cornell over 50 years ago, its leaves are soft, smooth, and have a subtly sweet flavor—just like actual butter. This popular variety of lettuce grows into what looks like a massive rose but instead of petals, the outer leaves are made of light, green leaves.
While butterheads like ‘Buttercrunch’ are not the most popular type of lettuce at the grocery store, they are sought-after by gourmet chefs and foodies alike. While cultivars like ‘Iceberg’ are most common at the supermarket, gardeners are much more likely to search out seeds for ‘Buttercrunch’ (or its mini version ‘Tom Thumb‘). In fact, ‘Buttercrunch’ is one of the most popular lettuce varieties to grow overall.
Buying seeds for Buttercrunch lettuce
Buying seeds to grow Buttercrunch Lettuce is typically quite easy as they are sold in most garden centers that carry seeds.
If you plan to buy seedling plants so that your butterheads have a little bit of a head start, it’s definitely going to be more expensive—but still easy to work with! The ‘Buttercrunch’ variety is very popular, and so finding seedlings at the garden center shouldn’t be a problem in most areas.
Planting Buttercrunch lettuce
Now that you have your seeds, you can plant them either indoors (for later transplanting outside) or directly outdoors. Planting seeds directly outdoors is easiest but it will be harder to control plant spacing. Also, these tiny plants will then have to compete with weeds which makes things more difficult for them.
If you choose to go the outdoor route, it’s best to know that lettuce seeds can germinate in outdoor soil with soil temperatures in the range of 40°-75°F (4°-24°C). You can check the temperature using a special soil thermometer.
In general, transplanting is best for gardeners wishing to harvest proper heads with lettuce leaves that grow to be about 3” to 6” long. However, direct seeding into your outdoor garden is best for baby lettuce greens.
Planting lettuce seeds indoors for later transplanting
Planting your seeds indoors is labor-intensive but is the best cost-saving way to start heads of lettuce. You will want to sow your seeds in seedling trays with soil barely covering the seeds. Keep the seed trays warm with heating mats and place them under a plant light to germinate and grow into seedlings. A fan can help with air circulation around the tiny seedlings.
Transplanting lettuce seedlings outdoors
After letting your little seedlings grow indoors for roughly four weeks, you should expect your young plants to have grown at least two to three inches. You’re also going to need to allow your little seedlings about a week to harden off and transition to the new outdoor climate.
Planting lettuce seeds outdoors
For baby greens, you will then need to space the seeds quite closely to get a thick row of baby greens, with 4–6 seeds/inch in rows that are 2″-4″ apart. For full-grown Buttercrunch lettuce plants, space the lettuce seeds 8″ apart.
Plant them quite shallow at a depth of 1/8″-1/4″ deep (barely covered with soil). The soil should then be kept moist and cool for good lettuce seed germination. The ideal season to plant Buttercrunch is in the early spring/early fall.
Growing Buttercrunch lettuce
Even in the best climate meant for buttercrunch to thrive, only about 70 percent of your seeds will have germinated. This plant is not meant for severe temperatures, whether that be cold or hot, and needs a nice middle ground to thrive. It does have a higher heat tolerance than most lettuce varieties and most heat will not make the heart bitter—but you should still aim for early spring or early fall to grow them. That’s what makes this a great late summer or early fall crop, or a late spring one.
The heat of summer is not ideal for any lettuce types so you’ll want to keep that in mind for all of your loose-leaf varieties. In general, warm weather can be okay but the summer heat is too much for these tender leaves in many climates.
If they are directly in sunlight you will want to consider getting a shade cloth to help keep them just cool enough but still getting just enough sun. Some people also find companion plants like sunflowers to plant near them because the long stems and large heads will help provide shade.
How to harvest Buttercrunch lettuce
So, when is it time to finally harvest your buttery little greens? Usually, between 55-65 days after you have sowed your seeds. Head-forming lettuce, like Buttercrunch, is most commonly harvested by slicing the whole head off at the base with a garden harvest knife. You can also trim off individual outer leaves of thickly-sown plants with scissors for baby salad greens.
A common method to harvest this specific lettuce is to harvest alternating plants to allow the remaining plants to grow larger. This is particularly important if you’d like to save lettuce seeds from the final dozen plants, as they’ll each need about a square foot to flower and set seed.
You will want to use or cool the head of lettuce immediately after harvesting for an optimal outcome. Otherwise, it can easily wilt if left without access to its nurturing soil. If you’re going to use it immediately, you can also cut the leaves off individually from the outside of the plant at a height of about 1″ above the soil.
Recipes for Buttercrunch lettuce
One of our favorite ways to enjoy buttercrunch lettuce is with buttermilk ranch dressing! Wash and toss the leaves with some buttermilk ranch dressing and top with fried chicken from Popeye’s or your own home-fried chicken if you are a home chef.
Martha Stewart herself recommends using Buttercrunch leaves to make colorful spring vegetable salad. You’re going to need carrot strips, sliced radishes, and alfalfa sprouts. Then toss it with white balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil. Put it in your favorite salad bowl and top it off with some light salt and ground pepper—and voila! You’ve got yourself a light spring salad, perfect for a quick lunch, or to pair with the main dish at your next family dinner.
Buttercrunch is also famously known for being what holds lettuce wraps together. Grill up some chicken and wrap it in your fresh lettuce. Then add a little parmesan cheese, pour just a small bit of caesar salad dressing down the line, and you’ve got yourself a delicious Caesar-style lettuce wrap. The crunchy leaves will provide a satisfying crunch with the best flavor!