The Val d’Orge lettuce is a winter variety of butter lettuce. The seeds came from Thierry Vrain of Innisfree Farm, who gives the provenance as Baumaux, France.
Plan to collect some seeds from this wonderful variety. After enjoying the lovely flavor of the lettuce in the cooler season, the taste will turn bitter as the weather gets hot. Leave the plant to grow tall, like a miniature Christmas tree, and it will put out flowers similar to a dandelion. The flowers will close after pollination, and re-open with lots of white fluff attached to the seeds, again very similar to a dandelion. If you wish to prevent lettuce seed scattering in the four winds, collect the pods before they fully open. Label an envelope with the name Val d’Orge, the date you collected the seed, and your name. Pull the pods apart and let the contents dry on a sunny window for a week or so before putting the whole works, fluff and all, in the envelope.
It will be easy to separate the fluff by gently blowing on the seed in a bowl. I always soak the seed for a few minutes before planting, as the good seeds sink to the bottom. The empty ones float and are easy to pour off.
Thierry’s seeds had a very high rate of germination, and most seeds ended up giving a hardy plant. I also sowed a row directly in the soil, and had to thin it out drastically. I would recommend spacing the seeds at least two inches apart, and be ready to pull out every other plant that comes up.
I hope you enjoy your spring crop of delicious Val d’Orge lettuce, and I hope you continue to save seeds and enjoy it throughout the winter as well!