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Does anyone have a culinary use for a lettuce which has bolted? Or do I throw it away?

Bolting being what gardeners call that moment when your lovely full bodied lettuce suddenly shoots skywards, in order to produce seed. Once salad crops have bolted the leaves still have a good colour, but they are usually thought of as unusably bitter.

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4 Answers

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Bolted lettuce tastes bitter; I'd suggest putting it in your compost pile if you have one. Of course, if you like bitter greens, you could make a salad of your lettuce (perhaps with a mix of other greens) with some dried fruit, toasted nuts, and a little goat cheese; the flavors might marry well.

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While it might be too tough and bitter to eat as a raw salad, you might try it as a warm wilted lettuce salad with a sweet and sour dressing (bacon, bacon grease, onions, cider vinegar, sugar) to help mask bitterness.

Alternatively you might also try a Lettuce and Pea Soup: Sweat onions in butter, season with salt and pepper. Add lettuce and wilt down. Add fresh or frozen green peas along with chicken stock and bring to a simmer until peas are soft and tender. Puree (maybe add a little chopped fresh mint) and adjust seasoning with additional salt, pepper, and sugar if the peas don't produce enough sweetness.

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Taste it. If it is too bitter to be pleasant, bin it. In my experience, it usually is too bitter unless it has just barely started to bolt.

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I've discovered our chickens are very keen on them and that seems to me to be the best use for them. Whilst this isn't a proper food-and-cooking answer the unwanted lettuces are (indirectly) coming back into the kitchen in the form of very lovely free range eggs.

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