I have to admit that I did not intend to save lettuce seeds this year, mainly because the thought just didn't occur to me. But my late-spring planted lettuce all bolted quickly when it got too hot early this summer. One day, my cut-and-come-again lettuce patch just started shooting up these tall flower stalks. I left them alone because I was curious to see what would happen.
Well, the tall flower stalks (about 3-4 feet tall, I think) started putting on hundreds of these tiny flower buds that, according to the internet, each only opened for quick 30 minutes to self-pollinate and start setting seeds. I caught a few of the open flowers here and there throughout this summer, as you can see in the picture above. The self-pollinated flowers turned into fuzzy seed heads, like dandelion, as a bunch of seeds formed inside each seed head.
I'm guessing that the fuzzy stuff is intended to carry mature seeds away by wind. But I also noticed that many seed heads still had seeds intact and just lost the fuzzies.
So I took each seed head and crumbled it gently between my thumb and forefinger to harvest the seeds. It was pretty easy, and I could do it while the seed head was still attached to the stem. I then unloaded the contents pinched between my thumb and forefinger to a paper plate. I repeated this process, um, like a hundred times until I got tired of it and decided I probably had enough lettuce seeds to plant an acre. In case you're wondering, my vegetables garden is not an acre. Not even close.
I'm not really sure how I can separate the seeds from chaff, as they all just came apart together. Does anyone know of a easy way to do this? Otherwise, I guess it won't hurt anything to just scatter-sow these seeds along with the chaff during next planting time.
Some lettuce seeds were black and some were white. I'm assuming they are different varieties of lettuce, as I had several different varieties (that I can no longer identify from the bolted lettuce) planted in that corner of the garden.
There are still hundreds more lettuce flowers and seed heads in the garden. I don't know if I have the heart to just pull them all out, but I don't really want to harvest any more seeds, either. Oh the dilemma. At least I learned my lesson for next year. If I decide to save lettuce seeds again, I will just let one or two flower stalks develop and that will still give me plenty of seeds, far more than what I can reasonably use or share. When the weather gets too hot, I will pull out the remaining lettuce to make room for something new, like bush beans.