Wednesday, July 1, 2009

MY "SALAD" DAYS


Yesterday, my neighbor, Karen, who has a love of and talent for gardening, brought me a lettuce, straight from the field. I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I’ve had salad fixings of any kind that fresh. I immediately pulled it apart to wash and inspect the leaves for any brown spots or hitchhikers. There were none; it was perfect! Everyone else here thought so too (see photos below).

I normally buy those bag salads, which are excellent, and can be bought organic, but there was something about seeing the whole head (I think it’s a variety of romaine, I’ll have to ask) with the entire root still attached, about washing the sand washing into the sink, and then feeling the tiny pieces of grit I missed between my teeth when I popped a few inner leaves in my mouth. It seemed somehow more real, more alive—like wild lettuce, as opposed to the tame, bagged, engineered lettuce in the stores. It connected me to something from my distant childhood, when my mother’s father came to live with us, and my dad helped him convert part of the backyard into a garden. It all came back to me: I have picked wax beans, pulled up onions and carrots, waited impatiently for tomatoes to turn red, and sifted the dirt my grandfather had just turned for tiny new potatoes.

A couple of times in my thirties I tried my hand at a salad garden, but each time the result was the same—total decimation by an army of ravenous slugs. I recall the frustration and disappointment when the hours of hard work preparing and planting came to nothing. Tufts of greens ended in a frail hollowed-out shells that had once been carrots, and I searched in vain through pea vines slippery with slug trails. Of course, it was probably my fault. Other than watering and a bit of thinning, I really did nothing to care for the garden, or to try to stave off these attacks. I simply left the garden to its fate while I wrote poetry and did artwork in my little studio. And I decided that, though the idea of gardening was appealing, I wasn’t willing to give it the proper time and attention it obviously required. Now, in retrospect, I’ve decided I just didn’t inherit the gardening gene. But tasting Karen’s delicious “wild” lettuce was a reminder of the childhood summers long past, when my time was infinite, and with my mother’s colander in hand, I followed grandpa’s hoe.


In the middle of washing the lettuce, I stopped to answer the phone, and both Pearl and Sweeney took the opportunity to jump up on the counter and make off with a leaf each. Very bad behavior, but of course instead of scolding, I grabbed the camera! I think they were more attracted to the wild smell of the earth than to the palate appeal of the lettuce, which, after a few tentative nibbles, they abandoned it. Fine, all the more for me.

18 comments:

bobbie said...

There is nothing like fresh lettuce. My son brought me a big head recently from his garden. I generally do grow a few different kinds of lettuce, but I do it in containers on the deck, so I don't deal with things like slugs, and I can pick the tiny new leaves when they are sweet and tender. I do get leaf lettuce rather than head lettuce.

Shellmo said...

How cute that your kitties like salad! I love fresh lettuce - I've had so luck growing it myself either.

Annie said...

Thinking back on it, I don't think I've EVER had lettuce fresh from the garden. You make it sound wonderfully appealing.

Sylvia K said...

Oh, I agree! When we lived in Montana where my kids grew up, we had a marvelous garden! I grew tomatoes, onions, corn, peppers, pumpkins -- the kids had their own for Halloween. I loved having all those fresh wonderful veggies all summer. And how cute that the cats had to sample it! Brought back lovely memories for me, too, Deborah! Thanks for those!

Sue said...

yum! I'm not sure when if ever I've had salad greens straight from the garden -- everything else, but not lettuce. My mother had a huge garden when I was a child, a necessary adjunct to my father's just above poverty line income. There were lots of tomatoes, carrots, beans and peas, but never any lettuce. I now grow tomatoes in containers, and have been lucky (knock wood) with pests.
My kitties all like green leaves -- especially the leaves on roses -- but just about any type of leaf. They chew a little and leave the rest. From the rear your Pearl looks just like my James -- big, white and fluffy.

Aleta said...

We're trying to grow some veggies too. It's a wonderful feeling to go into the backyard, pluck a few veggies to put in an omelet or salad. Right now we have banana peppers growing and ummmm, one "confused" banana pepper plant. The confused one gave a banana pepper, like normal and there after - it has produced BELL peppers. I think it thought the "b" for banana was really bell? Who knows, but it's still very yummy.

CUTE pictures of the cats! Greg's dog will eat ANYTHING - except for pickles and lettuce. Lol

fourwindshaiga said...

I didn't know cats would even get lettuce. Do you grow them pots of grass?

That is something you could do easily, Deb. Most places sell a leaf lettuce mix that grows well, and it is pretty. But, I'll bet your buddies would think it theirs.

Karen said...

You're very welcome Deb and Catties! And thank for this lovely ode to lettuce. I enjoyed reading it and the comments. Your catties are such a sketch! It figures that the pearl-girl and sween-bean would be little feline veggie detectives.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

I've never had a veggie garden (except for a few in pots)---but I LOVE fresh veggies with a passion. We go to the produce market and pay the big bucks for fresh fruits and veggies.

The Summer is the ONLY time all year I can eat and LOVE tomatoes.

This week, I bought corn-on-the-cob, fresh green beans, red potatoes, and strawberries. YUMMMMMMMMMMY.

Hugs,
Betsy

SandyCarlson said...

I love a fresh salad. I don't have much luck with the garden, but I appreciate the produce, all the same. I am glad you had a good one!

Indrani said...

Lucky you to get such fresh farm produce. I try in my small balcony too, but never a success.

Cloudia said...

I would like to visit your cool home!

Very nice post today.
Aloha-

Comfort Spiral

Lin said...

fun post...yes gardening is hard work and there are always to bugs or rabbits or golphers or something else to contend with-just like life.

Quiet Paths said...

A wonderful essay on the wonders of fresh greens. You can write about anything! I have lettuce still in the garden altho' the heat is really taking its toll. a big joy this week was bringing my mom a big container of fresh greens.

Beth P. said...

Love those audacious li'l kitties! Bagging your lettuce!

My vegetable garden is just getting going good after horrible hail storm 3 weeks ago--much had to start over.

When my lettuce and other delectables are doing fab, maybe I should send you some by fedX?!

I will be ready to do our 'project'...in mid August--or we can wait until after Labor Day and see if any sanity befalls us?

Take good care!

Kim said...

I love fresh lettuce! It is so crisp and yummy in a salad and nothing can ever compare. I too tried to grow it before but always with lousy results.

Wren said...

I've had to face up to reality as well: as much as I love fresh fruits and veggies, I'm not going to do the work necessary to grow my own.

It makes me very happy to live in an agricultural state, and in a region with lots of small, local farms, farmers' markets, and friends with gardens.

Yes, I am the one who always takes your excess zucchini. I consider it a public service.

Geraldine said...

Ahhh..the cat in the sink trick, I can SO relate! LOL There is nothing better than fresh salad greens from the garden, yummm...

Great post Deborah, glad I stopped in.