Organic Lettuce vs Home Grown

Late afternoon, a loud knock at my front door startled me.

Since leaving the small town behind and moving to the big city, we rarely have impromptu visitors. And, those we do have deliver timid knocks.

This was not a timid knock.  It was one that resounded throughout our tiny house and demanded our attention.

As I opened the door, I was shocked to see my next door neighbor.  We had just minutes before exchanged waves over the backyard fence – he was working in his yard and I was carrying a load of clothes from the garage to my kitchen door.

“Hi! What’s up?” I asked him.

He grinned and asked, “So, do y’all eat lettuce?”

“Every day!” I replied.

“Well, our little garden is producing it faster than we can eat it.  Would you like some??”

“Would I!?! Yes!” I answered. (My supply was running low and it would be several days before I would be able to get to the grocery.)

“Ok! I’ll be right back with some,” he said, and off he went, to his house.

Within a few minutes he was back, gently tapping at the glass storm door. In his hands were three huge bunches/heads of lettuce: two Romaine and one Butterhead.

As I took them from him, he said, “Have you ever eaten organic food before?”

I assured him that I had (home grown vegetables are organic, right?). He eyed me sternly and said, “These are organically grown – you will need to wash them well before eating, okay?”

“Ok! Not a problem!” I assured him. Then, I thanked him profusely.

He headed home and I headed for the kitchen.

We eat Romaine lettuce daily and I was grateful for this addition to my supply.  The Butterhead lettuce didn’t produce the same reaction in me – I’d bought some before and wasn’t enthused by it.

Did you know fresh from the garden lettuce looks different than lettuce bought in the store?  In the store, all of the old leaves have been removed and it’s been washed…made to look appetizing.

What I held in my hands didn’t exactly look like anything I’d want to see chopped up, on a salad plate for dinner.

I went to work pulling off the old leaves and discarding what I would not care to eat (tree leaves and seeds, slugs, dirt, mud, unidentifiable trash). Then, I rinsed it under cold running water to remove as much visible dirt/trash as possible.

With the outermost leaves removed and visible trash picked from among its leaves, I half-filled the sink with hot water and added a little dish washing detergent. I quickly dunked and swished the bunches of lettuce, then rinsed them in cold water.

I was surprised to see the trash and dirt that came off of them.  And, I couldn’t help but wonder how much was left on them and in them – that I could see, and that I couldn’t see.

Raw lettuce can contain some nasty bacteria and can cause serious illness – and I really didn’t want to get sick after eating it.

I’m not a germaphobe (as anyone who has been in my house or seen me after a day of yard work knows – I don’t mind dirt and I enjoy getting dirty), but I am germ conscious. I don’t like getting sick and take precautions to make sure I don’t.

So, to assure myself that the lettuce was clean enough to eat, I pulled the heads apart and washed some of the leaves individually if I saw any evidence of dirt.

Fresh from the garden lettuce is different from store bought.  It’s even different from that tagged “organic” in stores.

Home grown is fresher and tastes different.  Perhaps that’s because it’s truly fresh…just picked and hasn’t lost its nutrient / flavor punch.

I eat store bought Romaine lettuce daily.  I’m accustomed to the taste.  When I added the home grown Romaine to the last bits of my store bought supply and ate it for dinner that evening, I could tell by taste and by texture which was which.

Now, I’m sure they were not identical varieties of Romaine and that would/could be why the taste and texture were “off” a bit.  But, I think it was more than that.  I think it was because the home grown had not been refrigerated, or stored.

The home grown Romaine had a sharp taste to it and was slightly rough on my tongue.  The Butterhead, however, was surprisingly delicious and crunchy.

You can be certain that between now and next year, I will pick my neighbor’s brain about growing lettuce and next Spring my garden will grow a crop for our table (and, who knows, perhaps enough to share with him).

Oh!  I almost forgot – I cut off the stumps of the three bunches/heads of lettuce and placed them in a bag in the refrigerator along with the three stumps I’d cut from store bought Romaine. I read about growing your own from stumps and I’m going to try this and see how well it works.

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