Lettuce ‘Drunken Woman Fringed Headed’

Let’s not talk about the temperature. And can we skip mention of the humidity entirely? Let’s just say that the garden is roasting. In fact, I’m using this post as an excuse to sit here in front of the fan (and I hope you’ll all sit in front of your respective fans and comment) rather than going outside to watch the lettuce bolt. Except for two lettuce varieties, the crop is pretty much creamed as of last week. I’d be a hungry kid if it weren’t for ‘Drunken Woman Fringed Headed’.

I’m new to ‘Drunken Woman Fringed Headed’. The official story is that I purchased the seeds after seeing this lettuce in action in Sylvia Davatz’s Vermont garden (check out the autumn issue of Country Gardens magazine for much more about Sylvia). But let’s get real. The honest truth is — I was tickled by the name. Isn’t everyone? Who could resist having a ‘Drunken Woman Fringed Headed’ in their bed?

For the record, she’s a comely leaf lettuce with the added gimmick of frilly, frizzled edges and a rounded leaf. But with a name like ‘Drunken Woman Fringed Headed’ — who needs good looks? Plus, she’s also got scrumptious taste going for her. Very full-bodied. This isn’t a melt-in-your-mouth lettuce like many of the Buttercrunch types. Substance is what this lettuce is all about. It’s heavy on the crunch, more nutty than buttery.

That said, beggars can’t be choosy in midsummer. And in this weather, salads are a staple. Any lettuce that doesn’t bolt will do, but good taste is a nice perk. Before this heat wave, I had a bumper crop of arugula. I hate to look at it after today — 103 degrees in the shade. Prof. Roush, what’s the lettuce situation out there? Lisa, any lettuce data to report down in PA?

There’s another plus — the Drunken Woman is open-pollinated (just as you would suspect for someone with a name like that. I’m not sure where Sylvia Davatz collected it, but I do know that the name is a translation. And it’s available through Solstice Seeds (Sylvia’s catalog) — email her for a copy at sdav@valley.net. And then, when it does go to seed — Save it! Share it! Sow it next year!


Before the Drunken Woman came into my life, I wasn’t totally lettuce-less at this time of year. Thanks to my old reliable ‘Slobolt’ (Territorial Seeds — www.territorial-seed.com), I didn’t starve. I still wouldn’t be without ‘Slobolt’ in July and August. This standby keeps me in greenery all season long. But the two lettuces are totally different animals. ‘Slobolt’ is very, very buttery with a leaf that’s more limp than the Drunken Woman. It has a tendency to dissolve quickly in an oil dressing. So the two are perfect complements. Together, they make a great pair.

UPDATE — Oh No! I foolishly went out to weed the veggie garden this evening and I’m regretting it. A very ill-tempered wasp got caught in my sun-glasses and now my nose is approximately four times bigger than it was a few minutes ago. Not to mention my swollen eye and throbbing cheek. Guess even the wasps are crabby tonight. My advice to you all — stay safely in front of that fan!

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11 Responses to Lettuce ‘Drunken Woman Fringed Headed’

  1. Lisa from PA says:

    Tovah~ Sorry to hear of the wasp attack! I would suggest something like Benadril or toothpaste. Not a misprint. If store bought is not available, I put toothpaste on bug bites and stings and it takes the pain and swelling out of it. And you smell nice, too! I learned that from my pressed flower friend, Nancy, who’s also a nurse. By the way, I gave up growing veggies down here three years ago after the rabbits and groundhogs helped themselves to just about everything overnight one summer. Short of building a fenced in veggie fortress, I can’t keep the critters out. Regarding the heat, I have watered in the morning only to see my tithonia weeping in the 106 degree afternoons. I can’t go out there~ it drains every ounce of energy. Have been hiding in the air conditioned house and started reading my new copy of Tasha Tudor’s Garden! Bought it through Edward R Hamilton booksellers. I’m really enjoying it~ my husband says I’m not listening to him but I’m busy picking sweetpeas and wondering when tea will be served! Stay cool and hope you feel better~~ Lisa

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Wow, Lisa! I didn’t know about the toothpaste trick. Gonna’ try that one because those little bugs are in a snit — all hot and bothered. My trick was vinegar — soaked a cotton ball and bandaided it to my nose. Then I went over to a party at my neighbor’s house and got lots of laughs = of course, they were laughing at me rather than with me, but at least it brought out the smiles. I was in New Haven yesterday and it was 121 degrees in the parking garage lower level! That’s what I’ve got a veggie fortress. But the bunny still gets in. Anybody have a great havahart trap trick for bunny lure? Thank you so much for the kind words about Tasha Tudor’s Garden — that was my goal, to have people feel as if they were sitting beside Tasha on the back porch.

  2. Lisa from PA says:

    The book on Tasha is quite a jewel. This is the kind of book I will read again and again. I also have Views from a Sketchbook, as I am a collector of all things Marjolein Bastin. My house is filled with her stuff! The book was icing on the cake. About the bunnies. Do you know they munched each and every one of my sunflowers as they were growing? Of the five or six (maybe seven) packets of sunflower seeds I sowed in my cutting garden, I only have three sunflowers that made it to the four foot stage of growth. The rest are bunny munchies. They do not like my Mexican sunflowers (tithonia) though. All of them came up. They have eaten the clover in my lawn, but I have also seen them underneath the bird seed feeders munching on the dropped seed along with the squirrels and the birds. That might be a clue for you. Good luck. 🙂

    • Tovah Martin says:

      And I thought that it was the chipmunks who ate all my sunflower seeds before they came up. Did you actually catch the little delinquents in the act? I just read that Plantskydd (do you know this product?) is making a granular version just for folks (like me) who can’t stomach the spray-on stuff. Supposed to work for bunnies. Anyone out there with experience on this?

  3. Lisa from PA says:

    Oh! p.s.~ Your article made me quite hungry for a cold and wonderful summer salad for dinner tonite!

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Worked in the garden in the relatively “cool” morning, toured gardens all afternoon = all I could stomach tonight was fruit and salad…I’ve got a great crop of beans ready, but who wants to heat up the kitchen?

  4. It is bunny central here , and after much$$, sweat and angst I can tell you what does and does not work. I have tried and reviewed(on my blog) all available products as well as a few “recipies” from bunny infested places like places like Australia. Plantskyyd was one of the few things that worked for a short time, we also tried a granular with same active ingredient called Rabbit Scram; again it worked temporarily, and ALL are completely ineffective against the babies who are so ravenous they will eat anything.The nice folks at Rabbit Scram offered to make me a stronger concoction when I showed them photos after application, but I declined and bought a pellet gun. The population is more manageable now and I think some predators may be helping. I lost an entire polemonium this week, eaten to the ground, but compared to last year our damage is minimal.
    P.S. The few veggies we grow are completely caged off and secure by an enclosure that is buried wood timbers with 4 foot wire over.

    • Tovah Martin says:

      I never heard of the Scram product before, Cheryl, thank you so much. And it’s horrifying to hear that you have to net top to bottom, over and above. Flying bunnies? Bunnies that hitch rides on birds? Parachute in? I buried and angled out a bunch of fencing below ground. But what I’m wondering is: What do you do about the gates when you bury fencing? Any ideas?

  5. Heidi S. says:

    I think we will have to give some of that lettuce a try next year. We grow our lettuce, tomatoes and herbs in big planters on the deck and I was just lamenting that we don’t have any lettuce this time of the year from our CSA. I would love to grow it in the ground but the bunnies would devour it! I also gave up growing sunflowers because I couldn’t get them to grow more than a few inches. I wasn’t sure who the culprit was, after reading Lisa’s comment I am going to guess it was the bunnies.

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Bunnies are murder on lettuce (and swiss chard, conclusive taste tests have shown = we’re a regular laboratory here). But that’s a really good idea, Heidi – raise it above bunny reach! Duh. I’m running a race with the rabbits to see who can eat the Drunken Woman faster. But another new love of mine for midsummer salads is bok choy. Love that stuff and it never seems to bolt.

      • Heidi S. says:

        I haven’t tried to grow bok choy. Another thing to add to the list. Plus my kids are much more willing to eat things that come from the garden. I grew some mescaline mix the spring and my 2 year old would pick pieces and put them right in her mouth but she won’t usually eat lettuce if it is served to her on a plate. She has also been bad about picking the tomatoes while they are still green. Oh well, at least she wants to eat them!

        This year we seem to have 1 mom and 1 baby bunny in the yard (we are doing better than last year). The baby is out ALL the time. He doesn’t even run very far away when the kids go out.

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