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Firecracker eludes to not only the lettuce's coloring but also its flavor. It is a loose forming lettuce with a deep burgundy color throughout its leaves. The leaves are thin, glossy, wavy in texture and appearance with bitter, sharp and bright flavors that may require an acquired palate to enjoy.
Firecracker lettuce is available in late winter through spring.
Firecracker lettuce is a lightweight loose leaf lettuce which means it is a cut-and-come-again variety. One of the most notable characteristics of Firecracker lettuce is that it contains the highest levels of anthocyanins versus any other red lettuce variety. Anthocyanins are a pigment responsible for the red coloring in food plants. In lettuces specifically, the anthocyanin levels can directly affect the plant's chlorophyll levels. Higher anthocyanins can reduce chlorphyll levels and may ultimately lead to more tender lettuce leaves.
Firecracker lettuce has substantial levels of anthocyanins, which are health boosting antioxidants found in red pigmented food plants. They have some of the strongest physiological effects of any plant compounds. Anthocyanins' health benefits include anti-flammatory and anti cancer properties as well as diabetes preventative qualities.
The acquired taste of Firecracker lettuce lends the lettuce's best use to salad mixes. Its bold flavors can also be absorbed by rich pasta dishes or flavorful farro and barley based dishes, adding the Firecracker lettuce just prior to serving. The best pairings for bitter lettuces such as Firecracker are sweet, cool, rich, nutty and bold flavors. Complimentary ingredients include apples, pears, persimmons, bacon, creamy cow cheeses, hazelnuts, peanuts and pistachios, creamy dressings, mint, basil, fennel, anise, figs, dates, cooked eggs and grilled meats such as steak and lamb.
Firecracker lettuce is a cool weather crop as are most lettuce varieties. It grows best in fertile soil with minimal to sufficient irrigation, warm days and cool nights. It does not tolerate extreme heat as the leaves will bronze and brown and eventually bolt to flowering form, rendering its cut-and-come-again option extinct. Firecracker lettuce is a great home gardener's lettuce as it grows optimally without constant care. To harvest, it is best to remove at least an entire layer of leaves at once to preserve the lettuce's growing consistency. Once the lettuce has reached about four to six inches in height, cutting it just above the base will allow for consistent continued growth.
Recipes that include Firecracker Lettuce. One is easiest, three is harder.