Lettuce Gone Wild!

So here’s the latest word from my home garden. True to every plant’s mission to be fruitful and multiply, two of the Romaine lettuce plants have bolted, which means they’ve produced seeds and are trying to reproduce. For us lettuce-eaters, that means the leaves have become quite bitter and unpleasant to eat. (There’s a good explanation of bolting at essortment.com if you’re interested in the nitty-gritty.) Taking the cue, I pulled most of the stems from a few lettuce plants, which renders them largely unable to produce much anything but small leaves, and pulled the bolted plants entirely and tossed them in the compost heap. I’m going to do a fall planting soon anyway, so it’s good to make some space. We’ve gotten a lot of food from those plants, too, so it’s not a great sacrifice to lose a few.

Also, our banana pepper plant has produced a total of four peppers. Being new to the banana pepper plant, I picked one when it was still pretty bright yellow, and not unexpectedly found it to be incredibly hot in the mouth. I let the other three go. Tonight we harvested the remaining three, giving one to a neighbor and keeping the other two for dinner. We sliced and used one on a “bagel pizza,” which was especially flavorful with the additon of sliced plum tomatoes and homegrown basil. The other one went into our salads, which had homegrown Romaine and Cobb lettuce, onions from a local farmers market, and a natural poppyseed dressing. (We didn’t make the dressing.)

If you have any ability to garden at home, I really encourage you to try it. Even if it’s just a balcony or an unused patch of empty turf, a lot can be done with it. If you need help, just let me know. There’s nothing like tasting food you grew yourself. I can even taste this garden in the lettuce and the peppers. There’s a French term, gout de terroir, or better yet the German word bodengeschamck, which refers to the special flavor that the grapes (or in the case the lettuce and peppers) picked up from the earth that they grew in. It’s in everything I’ve grown here, and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever bought at a supermarket.

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Author: Jason Haas

Jason is an elected member of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, occasionally moonlights as an amateur gardener, and is a proud father of two, or three, depending on how you do the math.

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