This beautiful lettuce is a romaine-type, regarded by most sources as an Austrian variety (but also widely reported to have originated in the early 17th century in the Netherlands, and apparently also popular in the 18th century in Germany). Forellenschuss translates literally as “Speckled Trout Back,” which has been shortened here to “Trout Back.” There are reports that this heirloom variety arrived in North America (Ontario) in the late 1790’s, and, most notably, was grown by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello (although I have not yet confirmed this by consulting Jefferson’s fascinating Garden Book, a facsimile of which is in my library in Garrison). The seeds of the plant you see above were procured by Annie Novak at Monticello, so the provenance of these plants is reliable.
Tasting notes (7 November 2010): Soft with subtle crispness. Thin with distinct ribs. Not a trace of bitterness. Earthy undertones. And of course, a treat for the eye.