In your box:
–Eggplant or summer squash or beans
–Head Lettuce: “Ocate”
Every week that we have head lettuce, I’m convinced that the variety that week is the most beautiful head of lettuce we grow. We grow a picturesque variety of lettuces, many of them uncommon heirloom types, but probably none outshines the beauty of the “Ocate” cultivar this week. I tried looking into the history of this variety, but all I could find is that there is a town in New Mexico named Ocate and that the word also serves as an acronym for the Oregon Center of Advanced Technological Education. I also learned that the town in New Mexico is probably a mistranslation of the Nahuatl word “ocote,” which means pine. This head lettuce does not taste like pine needles, I assure you. Something else I learned is that looking things up on the internet is a huge waste of your time and the time of your loved ones. I also learned that I should probably find a way to block myself from using Google while writing newsletters so that I don’t waste my time again.
Ah, but head lettuce. Greens of all kinds are quite tricky in the hottest weeks of the year. Warm weather makes lettuce want to bolt, or produce seed. So there’s a very narrow window of time when the heads are large enough to harvest but not so large that they put their energy into growing a seed stalk. Once they bolt, greens are not really palatable and lose all of the beauty that they exhibit while growing. The mild summer we’re enjoying this year has been a great asset for growing lettuce, as we haven’t had any heat wave that makes all the lettuce bolt at once.
It’s also tricky to get lettuce to germinate in the summer. Lettuce likes a soil temperature of 60 degrees and will not germinate reliably when the temp is over 70. When the day temperature is in the 80s and some nights don’t get below 70, there’s really no hope for lettuce started outdoors. Our solution is to start lettuce seeds under grow lights in our cool basement. After two weeks of a favorable start, we move them outside to experience sunlight and wind as they continue growing in greenhouse flats. After two weeks outside, they are ready to be transplanted out. It takes roughly 4-5 weeks of growing in the field for lettuce to reach its mature size, and then it’s yours!
As the State Fair creeps closer and closer, there’s an undeniable urge for sweet corn on the cob this time of year. Many roadside stands have started offering it, and indeed ours looks to be quite close. It will probably take just one more week for the ears to ripen up, and we should have two solid weeks of corn coming up as we celebrate one food that actually deserves to be on a stick.
We also have garlic coming soon. It has taken longer than usual to dry out, which isn’t surprising considering all of the rain it experienced this growing season. But I expect that to be ready next week, too.
Our only new crop this week is our Sweet Peppers. A few of these have already ripened to red, but many are still in their green stage. We grow the typical red bell peppers, purple peppers that turn red when ripe, and two varieties of heirloom tomatoes that really stand out: “Carmen” and “Chervena Chushka” (no, I didn’t look up its meaning…). Both of these have an unique elongated shape and taste at least as good as the usual grocery store kinds. We don’t grow many hot peppers, as many members have avoided them in the past. We might have enough to give in a few weeks, and I’ll give warning before we include those. All of the peppers this week are sweet and have a mild flavor.