Yep, I said it… don’t bother buying salad from your local farmer these days. At least try it first. If you were at Fat Moon in May, you most likely tried our lovely salad mix – a colorful mix of baby mustard greens, mizuna, and arugula. It was the most delicious, flavorful salad our customers had ever eaten.
However, it is a new season and I will be the first to tell you that the salad mix and lettuce just don’t taste as good as they did two months ago. My customers were shocked last week when I tried to persuade them not to buy the lettuce. If they insisted, then they had to try it first and about half of them said no thanks after sampling. I have two theories about this. The first is that in May, those of us in New England are so starved for fresh food that we will eat practically anything and it really does taste delicious compared to what you buy in the grocery store, which in the case of salad, usually has no flavor.
The second, more accurate reason is that lettuce and greens do not like hot, dry weather. It prompts them to go to seed, meaning they send up a central flower stalk. The leaves become bitter. If you choose to buy lettuce or salad mix from your local farm this time of year do two things – ask if it tastes good and ask for a sample. Wait until you swallow, when it will pass the bitter taste buds at the back of your mouth, to decide if you want to buy it. If your farmer is growing lettuce in a shady area with a sprinkler system, then he/she may be able to produce good lettuce in the heat.
So, what are you to do if you are trying to eat local and healthy and salads are a big part of your diet? Get more creative with your salads. One of our favorites is ‘chopped salad’ which means we chop up all sorts of vegetables – sans lettuce – and have that as our salad. There are so many vegetables in season now that you may not miss the lettuce. Tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, carrots, peppers, onions, and blanched green beans are all in season and can be tossed together with your favorite dressing.
‘Tis the season for lots of really, really tasty vegetables! Skip the lettuce and enjoy the tomatoes!