In your box:
–Head lettuce (“Grandpa Admire”)
Our head lettuce this week is one my favorite varieties, an heirloom named “Grandpa Admire.” I had always figured it was named after an especially admirable grandfather, but in fact it was named for a Civil War veteran named George Admire. His grand-daughter, one Chloe Lowry, donated this family seed to Seed Savers Exchange at the age of 90, back in 1977.
Legend has it that George Admire’s “Mountain Rascals” batallion was penned down in the Battle of the Wilderness when his unit ran out of ammunition. George had several heads of lettuce that his wife had just sent him from their home garden to improve his nutrition and the spirits of the Mountain Rascals as the Rebs closed in. Thinking fast, George loaded a nearby cannon with a large head of the lettuce that bears his name and opened fire on the Southern Secessionists. His aim was true, and Admire knocked a dozen Confederate soldiers off their horses with well aimed lettuce artillery. His cannon echoed throughout the valley as he fired head after head of lettuce upon the Rebs. The Confederate soldiers sped a hasty retreat into the woods, cursing the Northern agressors and their flying vegetables.
After their victory, Admire and his compatriots searched the woods for the lettuce heads they had fired upon the enemy. The outer leaves of this buttercrunch variety were a little scarred by soot from the cannons, but after peeling back some of their outer leaves they were pleased to see how well the lettuce had survived their assault on the enemy. That night the Mountain Rascals enjoyed a group salad, savoring Grandpa Admire’s lettuce that had served them both in victory and in their celebratory feast. Many of the unit’s journals that night reported pleasure at how “the bronze-tinged leaves form large, loose heads that are slow bolting and withstand the heat very well. Very finely flavored!”
This 4th of July, we hope you’ll enjoy celebrating our nation’s independence by either eating a head of lettuce named after a great hero or by loading it into a cannon and launching it into the air during firework displays. And by the way, none of my story was true. But it would have made Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary much more interesting if he had added this story. Especially if he had actors in period costume re-enact it.
Turning to the truth now, this week we also have Komatsuna in your box. This is a Japanese green that we’ve really come to love for its heartiness in the field and its versatility in the kitchen. Komatsuna is great in a stir-fry, delicious when steamed on its own and seasoned, and wonderful as a cooked green. We’ve had komatsuna cooked into lasagna, chopped and topped on spaghetti, and baked into a quiche. I would call it a spinach substitute, except that we also have spinach in your box this week. Usually spinach has gone to seed by now and is no longer available, but the cool weather the past couple weeks has kept our spinach happy and continuing to grow nicely. This is the last week of spinach until the fall, however, so enjoy it while it lasts!
We are pleased to offer Turnips this week after a couple weeks of radishes. These are not the usual bitter fall turnips you might be used to, but a sweet white variety called “Hakurei.” These are quite sweet and tasty and we hope you enjoy them. You can chop them up and eat them plain or with a little salt. They are a great addition to a salad or they can be stir-fried as well. They do not need to be peeled unless they have any residual dirt on them you can’t get off.
Expected next week: Summer squash, salad mix, arugula, head lettuce, turnips, green onions, garlic scapes, kale and komatsuna or cabbage.