Lettuce is ugly when it goes to seed, no doubt about it. It looks like an invasive weed. But when the seeds sprout at just the right time in early spring and you are rewarded with tender lettuce for the next few weeks without having to plant anything, it is well worth it. Picking can begin when it is only an inch or so tall, thinning the glorious green and red patches so that the other plants have room to mature. The lettuce grows so vigorously during the spring weather that it acts as a green mulch for the garden bed, too. It is possible you will have enough to beg friends and neighbors to come get some (I help them pick), and the chickens think lettuce is a treat. It’s a winning situation for everyone.
One of the keys to gardening in southwest Idaho is recognizing that we really have 2-3 gardening seasons of differing conditions in one year, basically from March to September. It is challenging to get out and plant some of the distinctly cool season crops early enough in March, when it is chilly and the ground still frozen or soggy. Letting lettuce go to seed is a way to overcome this. Spinach is another candidate for this approach.
Another option is getting things like lettuce, spinach, and peas planted in the late fall. Since fall is generally a time of much harvest and storage prep, I have trouble getting to this. I may get to doing it with peas this year, since they don’t lend themselves to going to seed the same way. But for lettuce, I think I’ll enjoy the random self-sowing system. Do you let your lettuce go to seed?