Thursday, June 01, 2006

First Salad

If I had a "June Day" celebration, it might include this first garden salad of the season.

I don't plant many radishes - just a few to mark where the onion seeds and carrots are planted. Carrots take so long to germinate and onions are so hard to see at first, that the radishes help me keep on top of weeding while I'm waiting 'til I can see the onions and carrots. Then the radishes are ready to pull before the onions and carrots need the room.

In my tiny garden, seed mixes are good space savers. These are Easter Egg II Blend radishes from Jung Seeds - shades of red, pink, purple and white radishes in one packet. New for me this year is this Jung's Caesar Salad blend including green and red leaved Romaine lettuce.

It's long been a goal to have lettuce and tomatoes ready at the same time. It's not that it can't be done. It's just that I forget to keep planting the lettuce every two weeks. I think I'll try harder this year. In fact, I think I'll try growing lettuce year-round.

In The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan describes the organic spring mix lettuce grown at Earthbound Farm. It's a charming story of young Drew and Myra Goodman starting a roadside organic farm. When the chef who was their biggest buyer of baby greens abrubtly left town, the Goodmans were faced with a huge unsold havest of baby greens. They began washing and bagging the mixed greens and selling them to grocery stores. Thus we all started abandoning iceberg lettuce for those delicious mixes and the Goodmans business started growing by leaps and bounds.

The story of the development of the laser leveled lettuce beds, the machine that cuts the baby greens at precisely the right point, the refrigerated process of washing and packaging the greens and the 25,000 acres of farmland the Goodmans have converted to organic production is inspiring. Yet, “according to Cornell ecologist David Pimental, growing, chilling, washing, packaging, and transporting that box of organic salad to a plate on the East Coast takes more than 4,600 calories of fossil fuel energy, or 57 calories of fossil fuel energy for every calorie of food.”

I’m happy to say Wegmans buys lettuce from Finger Lakes Fresh here in Dryden, NY. It’s grown using a hydroponic system developed by Cornell over the past fifteen years in response to concerns about long distance distribution and rising fuel costs. So, the lettuce is grown locally but it’s still energy intensive. On the other hand (I feel like Tevye now) Finger Lakes Fresh is managed by Challenge Industries, which provides job opportunities to people with disabilities.

Anyway, I think I'll try to grow more lettuce.


LauraHinNJ said...

Those radishes look yummy! If you can spare the tops - please send them to me - the bunnies love them and the ones in the grocery store are gross and mildewy.

Planting lettuce all summer - would you start new seeds every two weeks or put out store bought seedlings? I'm just trying lettuce for the first time this year and bought seedlings. I just know I'll have an overload of lettuce ready all at once!

Melissa said...

I just harvested my first four heads of Buttercrunch lettuce last night (picture and post soon to follow). My husband and I had a simple salad last night for dinner and lunch today. Cool, tasty, and refreshing!

As I was driving along this morning, the one thought that kept popping into my head was, I wonder if I can grow lettuce year round. I think I will give it a shot!

Endment said...

Yummy - already checked out the link but have more seeds than I can plant before next year ;-)
We started on our lettuce last week - how I love the lettuce from our own garden!

Just started reading The Omnivore's Dilemma - your review has me ready to go pick it up and start reading again ;-)

Maggy said...

Your radishes are now the background on my computer. This has caused several confused comments from co-workers.