If you are aware of the conventions of our food paradigm you may know that the local food movement challenges what has been accepted as normalcy, turns it inside-out and often right-side up.
As a grower and a foodie I have been painfully thinking about lettuce, a staple in our mass cultural epicure for over 2,000 years.
The draw of consumers toward fresh lettuce at the farmers market every Spring is something of a hypnotic rite of passage especially here in the South where Springtime can be fickle and often erratic as temperatures fluctuate into the 80′sF(27C) by April as it did this year. Lettuce tolerates light frost but does not do well in temperatures above 75F(24C). As their Latin name suggests Lactuca sativa referring to the physiological state of the plant when ambient temperatures rise above 75F which produces a lactate or latex exudate when masticated (chewed) is horribly sour. This is a big disappointment for both consumers and growers of local produce as this seasonal vegetable is short lived (at around 35 degrees Latitude).
Historically, early settlers as far back as the pilgrims planted salads for fresh eating. Without a doubt so did Native Americans much earlier. Many of our domesticated “weeds” such as dandilion, lambs quarters or chickweed were often planted. But presently, often overlooked as a viable salad replacement are many of the Brassica oleracea species of greens such as collard, kale, colewarts (non-heading cabbage) and other colorful salad amendments such as beet greens, chard, spinach also short lived in the south as well as arugula make for a highly nutritious vitamin and antioxidant rich dietary supplement. These greens in general have a much longer life in the field,garden or refrigerator than leaf lettuce. Kale at 3.5oz (100g) has 134% more vitamin A ,11% more Calcium, 12% Vitamin C and 4% more iron than Romaine or Cos lettuce. Just one portion of kale is only 36 calories but it provides a massive 192% of your daily vitamin A needs. Greens are seriously underrated in our general diet and have long been subjugated to the saute’ pan or steamer basket. I say eat them raw dressed in olive oil,vinegar, herbs, nuts, fruits, you can only add to their nutritional value when eaten raw.
I grow a greens mix of 5 kale varieties, collards and rainbow chard. This makes for an aesthetic presentation and a potent nutritional supplement.