Pirat Butterhead Lettuce – How To Plant Heirloom Pirat Lettuce Seeds

Pirat Butterhead Lettuce – How To Plant Heirloom Pirat Lettuce Seeds

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By: Mary Ellen Ellis

As a cool weather vegetable, spring or fall is a great time to grow lettuce. Consider the heirloom variety Pirat for your cool-season garden. It’s easy to grow with good disease resistance and matures quickly in just 50 days. You can grow Pirat to use the baby leaves and for the mature heads.

What is Pirat Butterhead Lettuce?

Butterhead, or butter, lettuces include varieties that form looser heads, that have a sweeter flavor with less bitterness, and that have a more delicate texture than other lettuce varieties. In the grocery store, you’ll see these lettuces labeled as butter lettuce, Boston lettuce, or Bibb lettuce, but there are many other types, including the Pirat variety.

Pirat lettuce plants are heirlooms that originated in Germany, and they have a unique coloration. Most butter lettuces are bright green, but this type is often called Pirat butter lettuce because it has a red blush on the edges of the leaves.

The flavor and texture of Pirat is superior. The leaves are tender and the flavor is sweet. As you thin plants, you can use leaves as baby greens, but the fully mature leaves are nearly as delicate and gently flavored ones.

Growing Pirat Lettuce

This is a great, easy lettuce to grow for home gardeners. As compared to other butter lettuces, Pirat has a lot of disease resistance; it will resist downy mildew, tipburn, sclerotinia, and bacterial rot. It also holds off on bolting longer than other types of lettuce.

Pirat lettuce seeds are less expensive than transplants, and this is a vegetable that is easy to start from seed. You can start the seeds indoors in early spring or late summer and plant outdoors later or start them right in the beds. Thin the seedlings so that they are about 12 inches (30 cm.) apart for the best results.

Water your lettuce regularly, and be ready to harvest baby leaves in about a month and mature heads after 50 days. You can harvest mature heads entirely or you can work your way through a head by removing leaves as needed. Enjoy fresh right away for the best taste and texture.

This article was last updated on

Garden to Table: Mixed Lettuce

Lettuce is one of the best dressed vegetables at market.

Related To:

Lots of Lettuce

Organic lettuce is almost ready for harvesting in a raised bed at Sweetman’s General Store. In addition to plants and vegetables, the operation also sells soap making supplies, essential oils, and self-healing products.

Photo by: Image courtesy of Sweetman's General Store

Image courtesy of Sweetman's General Store

With so many gardeners looking for recipes to capitalize on their homegrown goodness, we thought this was the perfect time for a feature that combines growing and eating: Garden to Table, produced with our friends at the Food Network blog FN Dish. Farmer-bloggers Judith Winfrey and Joe Reynolds offer their tips for sowing, growing and harvesting. And then we kick it over to FN Dish for some delicious recipes using this seasonal produce.

Lettuce is one of those classic crops, whether you find it in your salad bowl or garden. The Egyptians were the first to domesticate wild lettuce varieties, but the Romans weren’t too far behind. In the Roman Empire multiple lettuce varieties were grown. The Romans referred to lettuce as “lactuca” to describe the milky substance that comes from the stem of the plant when it is cut. That history jumps a millennia forward to find lettuce as one of the most widely grown vegetable crops in the world.

Related to sunflowers, Jerusalem artichokes, chicories, and many ornamental flower varieties, lettuce presents itself in a great diversity of forms and colors. For our planning on the farm, we strive to grow roughly ten varieties for cutting lettuce, about four of which double as varieties that have the ability to grow large, full heads. Loaded with vitamin A and potassium, lettuce does not like it too hot or too cold. We often find in our hot Southern growing season that we have better success cutting heads as a spring crop and harvesting lettuce loose to be mixed with other tender greens, such as arugula, chicories, and young chard, as a salad greens mix in the fall.—Joe & Judith


Batavian or French Crisp

The hardiest of all lettuce, Batavian is a blend of looseleaf and crisphead with a rich flavor. It holds less water than crispheads and more vitamins as well. Broad leaves with edged frills hold up well for rolls and wraps. It doesn't ship well and is found less often in markets. 'Laura', 'Loma', 'Nevada'.


Rosettes of tender leaves have a sweet taste and buttery texture. Leaves are broader than long and can be gently savoyed or ruffled. 'Bibb', 'Boston','Lime', 'Buttercrunch', 'Pirate', 'Four Seasons', 'Tom Thumb', 'Red Riding Hood', 'Esmerelda', 'Continuity', 'Speckled Amish'.

Crisphead or Heading

Large, firm heads of crunchy texture with a high water content and mild flavor. Commonly referred to as Iceberg. 70% is grown in CA. 'Red Iceberg', 'Summertime', 'Reine Des Glaces'.


Sweet to mild tasting in an amazing array of colors and shapes, one of the most varied types of lettuce. Red, green, bronze, speckled or combination colors make for a treat to look at and to eat. Leaves may also be curled, frilled or deeply lobed. Red or Green 'Deer Tongue', Red or Green 'Oakleaf', 'Sweet Valentine', 'Thai Green', 'Red Sails', 'Mascara', 'Merlot', 'New Red Fire'.

Romaine or Cos

Juicy and crunchy with a refreshingly distinctive flavor, heavily ribbed centers on an oblong head, leaves longer than they are wide. Romaine or Cos (an ancient city in Greece ) has been cultivated, eaten cooked or raw for almost 5,000 years. May very well be the oldest form of cultivated lettuce. 'Jericho', 'Rouge d'Hiver' (Red in Winter), 'Forellenschluss' (Troutsback), 'Little Gem', 'Petite Rouge', 'Devil's Tongue', 'Outredgeous', 'Valmaine'.


Lettuce is a good source of vitamin A, C and K as well as calcium, potassium and iron. It also has trace elements of copper and manganese and anti-oxidants.

Lettuce Varieties

Bronze Arrow lettuce ultra-closeup. Photo Bridget Aleshire

It’s important to grow the right lettuce variety for the conditions. For earliest harvests, consider a different, faster, variety than you have usually grown. Some of the early spring lettuce varieties are often useless here if sown after mid-March, or even mid-February, because they bolt prematurely as the Virginia spring flips from cold to hot (and back again, grrr!). Varieties we only sow until 2/15 include Bronze Arrowhead (46 day leaf lettuce) Buckley, Ezrilla and Hampton (55d multi-leaf types) Merlot (60d), Midnight Ruffles (48d) and Oscarde (45d) (leaf lettuces). Antares (48d) Panisse (48d) and Revolution (38d) leaf lettuces we can sow until 3/15.

Nancy bibb lettuce
Photo Bridget Aleshire

Others that we like in early spring go on to be useful later in spring too. In this category are Buttercrunch (a small 50d bibb) Nancy (58d) and Sylvesta (52d) (two big green bibbs) Pirat (55d red bibb), Green Forest (56d), Kalura (57d) (two green romaines) and New Red Fire (55d), our reliable Salad Bowl (45d) and Red Salad Bowl (46d), Starfighter (52d), and Swordleaf (53d) (leaf lettuces)

New Red Fire lettuce.
Photo by Bridget Aleshire

The baby lettuce mixes we like are Fedco’s 2981 LO Lettuce Mix OG (contains at least six different lettuces) or Johnny’s Allstar Gourmet Lettuce Mix #2310 (including green and red oakleaf, green and red romaine, lollo rossa, and red leaf lettuces). One gram sows 25 ft, one ounce will sow about 600 feet.

For those with challenging growing conditions, both companies offer other specialized selected mixes.

Pirat / Red Butterhead lettuce

Billedkilde: Biodiversity Library

Rød salat / Red Butterhead lettuce
Lactuca sativa L. var. capitata

Hurtig voksende hoved salat med smukke rødbrune blade. God til dyrkning udendørs hele året. Fine, let blærede blade. Går ikke let i stok og modstandsdygtig mod skimmel.

Såning: udendørs fra sent i marts – september
Høst: midt maj – oktober
Afstande: 25 cm mellem rækkerne under glas, udendørs 30 cm. I rækken 25 cm under glas, 30 udendørs.
Sådybde: 0.5- 1 cm
Optimal jordtemperatur: 10 – 16 °C

Quick growing heading lettuce with red brown leaves, suitable for all year round outdoor cultivation. Fine, slightly blistered leaf. Bolt resistant and withstands downy mildew.

Growing situation: Open ground
Sowing outside: Late March- September
Harvest: Mid May-October
Planting distance between rows: 25 cm under glass in open ground ca. 30 cm
Planting distance in the row: 25 cm under glass in open ground ca. 30 cm
Sowing depth: 0.5 – 1 cm
Optimal soil temperature: 10 – 16 °C


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Watch the video: Regrow lettuce in just days


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