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A Pollination Moment
from Pollinator Paradise Farmer's Market E-mail reminders

8/22/2002
Summer Salads

 Isn't it ironic that the most basic ingredients for salads: lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers, aren't usually available at the farmer's market all at the same time?  Lettuce needs cold temperatures, while tomatoes and cucumbers need warm temperatures to develop.  So local lettuce gives out before the tomatoes and cucumbers are ready. 

Pollination is involved in the explanation of this irony.  Tomatoes and cucumbers are fruits, requiring long warm days to bloom.  Like tomatoes, lettuce also blooms in the heat of summer.  However, we eat lettuce leaves, not their fruit.  In the hot summer, lettuce leaves become too bitter to eat.  And lettuce fruits are simply not edible.  Do you know what lettuce fruits look like?  Very similar to dandelion fruits, those feathery parasols that take off in the wind.  Yes, those really are fruits.  Botanists call them "achenes".

So, what to do for summer salads?  Of course you can buy lettuce at the supermarket to eat with your local farmer's market tomatoes and cucumbers, but think about it - that lettuce had to be transported from far away, meaning a high cost for fossil fuels.  Robert Rodale, the organic gardening guru, advocated sticking to locally grown produce in season, as an important step we can take to protect our limited energy sources. 

So - try leaving the lettuce out of your salads in mid-summer.  Just fresh tomatoes and cucumber in a pesto or yogurt dressing is great.  Mix tomatoes and cucumber with mint and bulgur for tabuli.  Cold cooked beans, raw or cooked zucchini, and of course, arugula, all make wonderful salads.  And, you'll be happy to know that Pollinator Paradise is ready to offer the first late summer salad greens.  These include baby leaf lettuce and arugula, and mustard-spinach.  Mustard-spinach has a lettuce-like texture, and the slightest hint of spiciness.  Stop in and have a taste.  

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August 22,  2002
Copyright 2002, Karen Strickler. All rights reserved.