Sunday, July 01, 2007

On Loving Lettuce & Eating Salad for Breakfast


I Never Get Tired Of Looking At Lettuce

Over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that I do not think about salad the same way normal people do. The first step toward this realization occurred one Thanksgiving dinner when I was passed a beautiful wooden salad bowl. Peering inside, I saw a mouthwatering mix of butterhead lettuce, red onion, and avocado tossed with a creamy dressing. There was just one helping left, and as I was about to place it on my plate, I glanced around the table and noticed that only one other person had any salad. The contents of that bowl were supposed to feed seven more people!

Then there was the phone conversation I once had with a long-distance gardening friend. He had called to announce that he and his wife had made an interesting discovery about growing lettuce.

"If you just pull off some of the leaves instead of plucking the entire plant from the ground, the leaves will keep growing back. The way we figure it," he said brightly, "you only need three lettuce plants to feed two people for the entire summer."

I decided not to mention the three heads of lettuce I'd consumed earlier that day for lunch—or the 200 square feet of salad greens in my organic heirloom garden.

A few weeks ago I was harvesting a pile of mesclun to send home with a gardenless friend. "That’s plenty!" she said as I continued to pick.

"That," I politely informed her, "is barely enough for one serving."

And when I set a bowl of salad in front of a houseguest recently, he looked down at it, looked up at me, and said, "Please tell me this is for all of us."

"You don’t have to finish it," I reassured him. But I probably will.

So I’m a little obsessed with salads, which I eat nearly every day of the year. And while pretty much anything green, leafy, and not poisonous is fair game for my salad bowl, lettuce holds a special place in my heart.

For there are certain times when absolutely nothing, not even chocolate, will satisfy my soul and stomach except some freshly picked butter lettuce from the garden. Even if it’s 1:30 in the morning. And we’re in the middle of a thunder/lightning/wind/hail/rainstorm. And my terrified, 50-pound, thunder-phobic dog is trying desperately to climb into my arms as I crouch down harvesting lettuce in the wet darkness with a 98% dead flashlight. But oh, how that salad hit the spot.


European Mesclun Mix From Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds


The lettuce season this year was surprisingly bountiful. Lettuce is an iffy thing to plant for spring in southern Missouri. We usually have at least a few days in the 90s in April--which in itself can be enough to ruin your crop--and it's always a toss up as to whether May will behave itself and stay mild or jump headfirst into summer. This year it behaved, and I harvested gorgeous lettuce every day for weeks.

On June 8th, with temperatures threatening to soar upwards, I grabbed a pair of scissors and snipped what was left in the two 4' x 8' raised beds I'd direct seeded at the end of March, leaving the base of the plants in the ground. It amounted to several pounds. Because I make it a point to plant varieties that are heat tolerant and slow to bolt, despite quite a few days in the upper 80s I was still picking unbitter bounty on June 19th (while crossing my fingers the stuff in the fridge wouldn't rot). Today I enjoyed the last of the spring lettuce. July 1st--I think that may be a record.

My salads will now be lettuceless for the next several months, but if you live in a place where summers are mild (oh, how I envy you!), it's not too late to plant, and growing your own lettuce from seed is easier than you might think. Click here to visit my kitchen garden and learn how.



Fast Farm Food

With such an abundance of wonderful lettuce hanging around, it was only a matter of time before I figured out a way to eat it for breakfast. For the first time in months, I was out of my beloved blueberry bran muffins, and morning found me flailing around the kitchen, half starved, my mind a blank. I'm the kind of girl who needs to know what she's going to have for breakfast when her head hits the pillow the night before.

Incapable of doing anything else, I turned my mind toward thoughts of lunch. Before long I'd convinced myself that freshly laid fried eggs on a bed of lettuce wasn't really all that different from the scrambled eggs with chopped Swiss chard I sometimes whip up. Thinly sliced pieces of homegrown lamb salami crisped up nicely in place of pancetta or proscuitto or bacon and left me a little grease to fry the eggs in. A few chopped scallions, a drizzle of creamy dressing (yes, even foodie farmgirls sometimes buy bottled salad dressing--organic of course), and some freshly grated pecorino romano finished things off.

It wasn't until everything was arranged on my plate that I realized I'd just spent about five minutes making a meal that had not only come mostly from the farm, but was healthy and beautiful as well. I snapped a photo and dove in. I guess I need to run out of bran muffins more often.


© 2007 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares photos & stories of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

25 comments:

  1. So like me - to you the term "portion control" means how much does that bowl actually hold? LOVE the breakfast - yes - you can have something other than a muffin. Eggs are great for you - especially since Whitey is busy raising egg layers for you. Beautiful pictures Susan - as usual - now I'm hungry again!

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  2. Oh, frabboodoo! Beautiful. Yeah, lettuce.
    And... homegrown lamb salami? Oh, my.

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  3. Now I know you're not going to want to think about this, because summer's just got into its stride with you, but what I'd like to know is - if you eat salad 365/365, what are you growing in the cold? And in a polytunnel? How does it work? Maybe you blogged about this in the winter before I discovered you? But I'm just beginning to plan my autumn/winter plantings, and I'd really like to know how you do it!

    Thanks
    Joanna
    joannasfood.blogspot.com

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  4. I actually planted lettuce this year (mesclun mix? or something like that)...and didn't even touch it because, well, I don't like lettuce...

    I've always sort of dutifully eaten it because...I don't know why...but I could go the rest of my life without a leaf of lettuce and never cry about it...

    maybe because I've never had fresh out-of-the-garden lettuce...

    well, missed that boat...but maybe I should try again next year...

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  5. Lovely to look at. We have a few more lettucey weeks here in New York, and I will be cherishing them even more poignantly! thanks.

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  6. I have fallen in love with buttercrunch and just planted a second batch as the first only gave me two heads .. we have something else, as well, but Norm planted it and can't remember what it is. A leaf something.

    Blessings

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  7. beautiful pics. Susan, you brought back a memory from my missionary time in S.Africa. At meals, we sat 6 to a table. Each serving bowl, containing salad,veggies etc., was to feed 6. You had to look at where you were on the rounds, and judge what your portion should be. 'Firsters'were timid, leaving more to make the round. The 'lasters' made out like a bandit because they had choice of what was left. LOL I had a sweet blessed time there. Thanks,Susan, for the recall. Hugs.

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  8. Yes, I am so with you on this lettuce love affair. The salad with the fried eggs looks just wonderful.

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  9. I've never seen a "breakfast salad" before but the picture sure looks good! Maybe that will be the next big thing!

    I too am saddened that my garden can not give us lettuce for a while because of the heat. But in a couple of months we will sow again!

    I'm pretty new to both of your blogs and I like them a lot. Keep up the good work!

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  10. I'm with you on lettuce! I live on Vancouver Island, so we are still picking lettuce from the garden. It was a very cool June - great for lettuce, but the tomatoes are sulking! I find the lettuce this time of year almost melts in your mouth. A good lettuce salad and piece of crunchy fresh bread, some protein and a glass of wine - life just does not get much better!

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  11. "I'm the kind of girl who needs to know what she's going to have for breakfast when her head hits the pillow the night before" oh, I am sooo with you there FG :-))

    A friend of mine is scared he might fall in to the bowls I serve dinner in too! Portion control on salad is outrageous!

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  12. Growing up in the midwest, my family's idea of salad was a head of iceberg with a some wedges of tomatoe thrown in. I was fine with that. Then I met my hubby. His Italian family of 3 boys with 2 wives, mom, dad, and two nephews would put away a salad made up of romaine or mixed greens and a dressing of homemade red wine vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pepper. That is not so unusual. The amazing thing was that it was the HUGEST salad bowl I had ever seen outside of a commercial institution. So bit it had to sit on the counter so we could see who we were dining with. It would all be gone by the end of dinner, and they would be fighting over the oil and vinegar in the bottom to sop up their hunks of crusty french bread with. They have almost come to blows over their grandmother's home grown chickory, which she slices thinly and tosses with red onion and the same vinegar/oil/salt/pepper mix. YUM! Do you know if chickory grows well here in MO? You brought back great salad memories, because in our house we LOVE US some salad!

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  13. Thanks so much for the lettuce post. Because of your detailed easy to follow recipe for sowing lettuce seeds, I'm going to try it in a couple of months. I think I'll also try the mixes you mentioned from your favorite seed company. I hope mine look half as beautiful as yours!

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  14. A truly inspirational post! I'm going to go plant lettuce!

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  15. Oh, how I wanted to dive right into that picture of your breakfast! I too find great satisfaction from preparing a meal from things I have grown myself. I just love your enthusiasm!

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  16. Haha, your lettuce comments sound so like my girlfriend.... She serves her salads in a bowl designed for family use, and that's just for her :-) She's always astonished that other people serve such small amounts at dinner parties and so on. I'm coming round to eating it but not quite in such quantities...I'm learning though!

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  17. Gorgeous. I agree...lettuce is beautiful. So many color variations, so many textures...a feast for the eyes.

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  18. Wow, how do you get your pictures of lettuce mix in the ground to look SO good? I've tried shooting close ups and mine just hold a candle to yours. In any case, I'm a lettuce lover too. We've been covering ours with some quilt-batting type material to protect it from the heat of the sun. It's hanging in there nicely.

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  19. We unfortunately missed out on growing our own lettuce this year but I can't wait to try it next year. I would like to try some Lamb's Lettuce and perhaps a bit of spinach for the winter, though :)

    Love the salad. Definitely going to have to try that some time...although we unfortunately won't have our own homemade lamb salami ;)

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  20. I get the salad addiction completely! Have you noticed what a good hangover cure it is? A nice big bowl of fresh lettuce with a tangy vinaigrette. We've still got fresh baby lettuce up here - well they're adolescents now - and I've been caught on more than one occasion at the greenmarket with my face buried in a fragrant, freshly picked head. The best aromatherapy ever.

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  21. That's a very French salad. The only difference, I think, would be poaching instead of frying. Clever idea to serve lunch for breakfast!

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  22. I never would've thought of salad for breakfast, UNTIL I saw this photo. BRILLIANT!

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  23. mary contrary7/12/2007 3:44 PM

    Wow does that look good! When I lived in CA, there was a place that had something like your gorgeous breakfast salad on the menu...I used to have it with whole grain croutons, grated jack cheese, and salsa. Yum.

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  24. Dear Farmgirl,

    I share your love for lettuce and salads. There's no such thing as too much salad or a proper time of day for it!

    Your post on lettuce has made me determined to try my hand at growing my own. I live in a hi-rise in Beijing, so I'm guessing it'll be quite a challenge. But no matter, just the thought of waking up in the morning to freshly picked light and buttery goodness is making my mouth water.

    Well, if my crop doesn't succeed, I can always come here and ogle your garden pictures. ;)

    I'm new to your blog and absolutely enjoy reading about your stories of the farm and its inhabitants.

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  25. I love this post - it sounds delicious. :) I'm not really crazy about sweet foods at breakfast and it's nice to eat regular things then, too.

    I realize this post is old. It showed up when I searched for "salad at breakfast" out of curiosity. :)

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