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October 26, 2021
We love lettuce—and our goal is to grow farm-fresh lettuce that’s so delicious that diners can appreciate your salads as much as your incredible entrées. To play our behind-the-scenes role in helping to make your salads uniquely delicious, nutritious, and visually appealing, we grow a variety of types.
Flavors range from mild, nutty, and earthy to salty and citrusy. Some of our lettuces have long, narrow leaves while others are short with full tufts. Still others are shaped like rosettes. Textures? They range from crunchy to chewy and crisp.
Then there’s the spectrum of sizes. As always,” Farmer Lee Jones says, “we’ve learned so much from chefs. We’d been growing baby lettuce and ultra-sized lettuce, half the size of a baby head. But, one day, a chef watched us take even smaller lettuces from the greenhouse to the field where we planned to transplant them. But the chef said, ‘I like this size you already have before you transplant them.’ Thus, the petite-sized head of lettuce was born!”
Here is a primer of our
. “I’m now especially partial to the petite size,” Farmer Lee admits, “because they’re perfectly shaped and look as though they’ve just been plucked out of the earth. Because we hand harvest fresh lettuce in this size with scissors, they can be used on the plate in natural-looking full forms.”
Much as Farmer Lee likes the petite size, he also recognizes that chefs need to choose the sizes that work well for the dishes they’re creating—and so you can explore
lettuce options here
We love the creativity of our chefs, and we know that you’ve got all sorts of amazing ideas up your sleeves when it comes to creating in-demand dishes and menus. That said, it can be fun to browse through intriguing lettuce recipes.
Fried Kalettes with Pickled Carrots, Romaine Lettuce, and Mayo
Carrot Romesco, Green Salad, and Sweet Potato Chips
Wedge Salad Recipe Reloaded
To make sure that you have exactly what you need, we’ve experimented with more than one hundred different lettuce varieties, narrowing them down to chef favorites. Plus, at any one time, we probably have eight to ten new varieties that we’re researching or trialing to continue to keep all flavorfully interesting.
, meanwhile, is always a delightful surprise. Figure that, if we have 20-plus varieties of lettuce in four different sizes, that’s a multitude of possibilities—and the mixed lettuce consists of the best of the day’s harvest, combined in a way that maximizes flavors, shapes, and textures.
Chef Jamie Simpson likes to consider the basic
elements of a salad
(or any other dish, for that matter) and then, once those are established, to creatively experiment. “The only rules,” he says, “are the fun rules.”
No holds barred.
Unfettered by convention.
Let your imagination run wild.
When he goes on one of his walks in the garden, no two days are ever exactly alike, which naturally sidesteps repetition. “It’s all about,” he explains, “what’s going on today.”
Now, granted, Jamie can walk though The Chef’s Garden and the gardens at The Culinary Vegetable every day. So, here are two suggestions for you:
Contact us to let us know when you want to visit our farm!
Let your product specialist know what you want so our team can be your eyes and ears.
Health Benefits of Lettuce
These can vary, based on the type of lettuce, with
noting the following health benefits of lettuce:
Bone strength because of the vitamin K
Hydration: this is an excellent way to become hydrated via food
Improved vision because of the vitamin A
Improved sleep: lettuce extracts can help so scientists are experimenting to see if eating lettuce can provide this benefit
A note about vitamin A: a serving of
provides 82% of the daily requirements of this vitamin along with some vitamin C, calcium, and iron. If you want to increase the vitamin C in your dishes,
notes how baby green romaine is especially beneficial.
Plus, in a post we created for Farmer Jones Farm, we noted a study in
that included lettuce in their list of
brain healthy foods
. This study found that eating one serving of leafy greens each day can help to slow down cognitive decline.
At the 2017 Alzheimer’s Association’s International Conference, they estimated that eating brain healthy foods, including leafy green vegetables, could reduce “future cognitive impairment by up to 35 percent” with a study by Rush University agreeing that leafy greens are a “key component of preventing mental decline.”
History of Lettuce
According to a
, lettuce originated in the Mediterranean—initially considered to be a weed. Six thousand years ago, we know that Ancient Egyptian grew this crop because tomb paintings and other artwork highlight multiple lettuce varieties. It’s possible that people in the Middle East grew lettuce before this, but no conclusive proof exists.
Ancient Greeks and Romans adored lettuce. The father of medicine, Hippocrates, praised this food while the now-famous Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus, supposedly had a statute of lettuce built. An
fills in more of the blanks, sharing how Persian kings enjoyed lettuce as far back as 8,000 years ago. It was a delicacy in China by the fifth century, AD.
Lettuce made its way to Europe through trade routes. In 1623, three types of romaine lettuce were described: light green, dark green, and red spotted. Eaten during the Middle Ages, its usage expanded from France to Italy in 1537.
Christopher Columbus brought lettuce seeds to the North American continent, and people grew lettuce in the Bahamas in 1494. John Winthrop, Jr. brought seeds from England in the 1600s to what’s now the United States. As far as South America, Brazilians were growing lettuce by 1650.
A Look at Our Lettuce
We suspect that Hippocrates, Caesar Augustus, John Winthrop, Jr., and all the other people who have appreciated lettuce would be astonished at the varieties available today. For example, we offer:
Lolla Rossa Lettuce
We’ve always grown for flavor, visual appeal, and shelf life for our chefs. What we may have suspected—but previously couldn’t prove—is that our regenerative farming methods would also optimize for nutrition.
Independent testing has shown that our vegetables have up to 500% more in minerals than the USDA baseline. In a 2019 article about
, here’s an overview we provided of our growing process.
We plant seeds for vegetables, edible flowers, herbs, microgreens and more.
Through the miracle of photosynthesis, the sun provides nutrition so that these plants can grow while the water from the planet hydrates them.
We gather in the seasonal fruits of the harvest throughout the year.
People can therefore eat delicious and nutritious meals.
After harvesting, farmers at The Chef’s Garden plant diverse cover crops to build our soil up to a degree that’s even healthier than how we found it, a key way to give back to the Earth.
Via these cover crops, Mother Nature offers up yet another of her gifts through the process of sequestering atmospheric carbon dioxide. This amazing process helps to “offset greenhouse gas emissions, such as the carbon dioxide emitted by cars, power plants and other burning of fossil fuels. The soil has significant potential to store carbon and to mitigate the effects of climate change.”
At that time, Bob Jones, Jr. explained the process in this way. “It’s the flow of energy from the sun to the cover crop, from the cover crop to the soil, and from the soil to the microorganisms, from the organisms to the vegetables. The organisms are feeding off the root exudates that are a product of photosynthesis, converting soil chemistry to a form that the plant can take back up. We’re putting a diversity of plant organic matter back into the soil to be decomposed by the organisms that are in the soil naturally, as long as you haven’t put something on the soil to kill those.”
Here's another significant difference maker. At The Chef’s Garden, we’re ultra-discerning about the seeds we plant. About 50% of them come from our own processes while we source the other 50% from artisan seed professionals who offer the same level of time, attention, and care in their work as we do on the farm. “You put good genetics in combination with healthy soil, that’s where the magic happens,” Bob says. “It’s a continual process, and it tends to get better and better and better.”
Finally, here’s how Farmer Lee sums all up: “We never try to outsmart Mother Nature because we already know who is going to win. Instead, we grow vegetables slowly and gently in full accord with nature using our regenerative farming techniques.”
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You are what you eat AND what your plants eat. Seriously!