Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Glut of Garden Lettuce - a year of food by the season

Summer is here and there is an abundance of lettuce in my garden.  We have been enjoying fresh salads daily combined with garden herbs, green onions, baby zucchini and snow peas.  This glut of lettuce seems to come from the the wet cool spring followed by hot summer conditions. I have been eating lettuce I planted from seed in early April for at least a month. This year I grew Iceberg (above), Red Oak Leaf, Red Romaine (cos - below), radicchio and a red spotted romaine type that I can't identify and I don't seem to have the package any longer! Lots of lettuce is a happy thing.  

For a simply delicious portable work lunch pack a salad topped with in-season raw vegetables, some sunflower seeds or favourite nuts for protein and dress it at your desk.

If you lettuce is coming in all at once you may want to think of it as a green and not just a salad vegetable. Use your imagination. Non-conventional uses of lettuce include soup and stir fries. The Italian's are famous for their lettuce soup which combines in-season greens with fresh herbs.  Try this Zuppa Lattuga at the Chicken Farmer's of Canada website!  You won't be disappointed.  In Peru they make a fresh salsa with garden lettuce and hot peppers and cilantro. To use lettuce in soup and stir-fries simply shred into strips. Smaller leaves can be added whole.

Go for the (Dark) Greens
In general the darker the green, the more nutrients they contain. For example, romaine and watercress have 8 times more beta carotene and twice the calcium and potassium as iceberg lettuce. But, if you grow your own iceberg lettuce it does contain more nutrients than store-bought.  Grown in the garden it is richer in chlorophyll and vitamin A.  Just two cups (500 ml) of iceberg provides 8% of your daily value for vitamin A, 5% folate and 5% vitamin C.  Not a total waste of time!

Make your own dressing is the best advice
Vinaigrette is easy to make and keeps for weeks in the fridge.  Use extra-virgin olive oil to really boost your salad's flavour and beneficial fats and vitamin E. Eating good quality oil with your vegetables helps your body absorb the fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E and K).  When you keep the dressing in the fridge the oil firms up so let it un-solidify at room temperature for 15 minutes or so before serving.

You might like like my blog posts and recipes for:

Creamy Tarragon Vinaigrette
Strawberry Pesto Vinaigrette
Maple Dijon Vinaigrette

Happy summer!  Enjoy your salad!

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