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More than other greens, lettuce doesn't do so well with stress. It wants steady watering, but too much will rot young roots. It goes all Blanche DuBois in the heat, alternately wilting and making lustful last gasps as it bolts—turning bitter as it goes to seed. Then again, lettuce is not picky about soil, alothough some nitrogen would be nice; the tiny seeds can be sown as soon as the soil warms up; and given partial shade and access to a breeze, even a few pots can supply a summer's worth of salads.
The lettuce in this slide show was grown by farmer Jack Algiere at the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, New York. Any of these cultivars can be grown to maturity, Algierre says, but the home gardener benefits the most from treating loose-leaf varieties as cut-and-come-again crops: Shear four-inch-high leaves down to one inch above the soil, then come back every ten days to harvest again. Just the kind of advice that makes you believe in the kindness of strangers.