Monday, April 30, 2007

Leafy, Local, Luscious, Lettuce

I've been boycotting packaged greens. In fact, all winter I spent time figuring out ways to cook greens instead of the usual salad from California. Part of it is concern over food safety with 18 outbreaks of foodborne illness since 1995 linked to lettuce and one to spinach. The other part of it is that fresh, local lettuce is just so much better and lasts so much longer than greens harvested and shipped to the grocer's shelves.

Processing and shipping time aside, the lettuce tastes better because it does not have to be "conditioned" for shelf life through such processes as antioxidant treatment, modified atmosphere packaging, refrigerated storage, washing with chlorinated water or ozone, and most recently, irradiation, which was approved for use in 1998.

So, you can imagine my delight when I went to the farmers market and found two huge heads of leaf lettuce for $2.00 each. As a special bonus, the lettuce came with roots, dirt and pots attached. So I will (if I don't kill it) get about EIGHT heads of lettuce for $4.00. Even though I am too late for the Pennywise Eat Local Challenge, that's some darn good shopping.

Best of all, if I want to see how my lettuce is being grown, all I have to do is look out on my back porch. Yep, there it is, still growing. Didn't spray it with anything today. No wild animals or bad bacteria. Okay, let me just step outside and clip a really fresh salad.

I like this new local twist in my life! But we also LOVE greens. So, just in case I do kill my little red and green beauties, we signed up for a CSA with a grower that is even more fanatic about the quality of my produce than I am. He's also started a winter CSA using greenhouses, so we should be able to eat local lettuce in December. Almost enough to make me not mind winter. Almost.

With greens this fresh, you don't want to kill the flavor with commercial dressing. It's cheaper and better to make your own dressing. And, it's really easy, too.

Basic Viniagrette
Looking for this recipe? It will be part of an upcoming book with Ali at Cleaner Plate Club.


Frugal Mom said...

I am so jealous. Aren't you in the Midwest, too? Or am I making that up?

Mike & Misty said...

I really adore salads but I find I don't get as much use out of a lettuce as I do out of bagged salad. Maybe I'm not storing it correctly or something, but it always wilts or goes bad before I get to use it. Whereas the bagged stuff seems to last plenty long (probably a bad thing!). Is there a best way to store lettuce? Perhaps after it's been chopped up into salad sized pieces?

Mike & Misty said...

Also, could you post more recipes that use the roasted tomatoes?

The Expatriate Chef said...

I am in the Midwest! The lettuce will only grow over the next month, then it will be too hot. But, for now, we have fresh greens. And then again in early fall and over winter with the greenhouse produce.

Buying it fresh grown is the key. Either way, wash and dry the lettuce in a salad spinner. Then store loosely in a ziplock with a folded damp paper towel tucked in. Fresh, local lettuce will last about a week or so.

More roasted tomatoes coming up! We love them and they are very good for you!

Thanks for stopping by both of you!

Frugal Mom said...

Yeah. I am in the Midwest as well and I still have 2 more weeks to go till I can get the goods of the market. We are, however, preparing our garden at home. I should post some pics of it. We have moved it to a diff location and it is much bigger. The goal, aside from eating from it all season, is to store it so we can eat fresh food all winter.

The Expatriate Chef said...

I'd love to see your garden! We're just starting to get veggies in. Last week's market only had herbs, potted veggies (greenhouse) like my lettuce, and asparagus and green onions. Not much, but the asparagus was beautiful!