June 2, 2008

Dia de Lechuga - 'Lettuce' Celebrate

As the Gaska brothers would say, “Today is the day God smiled down on Featherstone.” It was a special day as the first big lettuce harvest occurred. In a matter of over 2 hours, nearly over 2,500 heads of lettuce were picked, washed, and packed for the grocery store orders in the Twin Cities. A big goof on my part in transferring numbers on the order sheet almost had us picking 3 times the amount we needed. I still feel sick about it.

I knew today was special when Jack put in an order for donuts to be picked up at the local grocery. (The first time we had donuts was last week when Justin had a birthday.) It was quite a paradox be celebrating the harvest of lettuce with donuts – but a quite delicious paradox. A large part of this celebration is cultural, though. Jack explained to me earlier a concept that the Mexican brothers adhere to and that is this: when a well-respected member of the family, or a boss, falls on good fortune, it is customary to ‘share the wealth.’ The first big harvest of lettuce obviously equals dollars for the farmer, so the donuts were in response to this custom.

The heads of lettuce were gorgeous with all of their rich, pure colors. (Red oak, green butter, red butter, and green leaf.) I learned that the biggest difference between the lettuces is the texture, as the butter lettuce is a little more slippery and soft. The process of washing the lettuce was a very delicate, yet rapid one. One of the brothers was obviously concerned with my speed so he kindly stepped in to show me the ‘right way.’ (And I have to say it was absolutely that.) After packing up the lettuce we all drove back to the farm to store it in the coolers that we power washed last week.

For lunch, a lady from the Twin Cities who is helping raise money for the farm made us one of the most delicious meals I’ve had here yet. (And lucky me – the leftovers are in the fridge!) She said she wanted to ‘feed those who feed me.’ Nicely put. She made us asparagus soup (whose garnishing I mistook for a side dish!), a tomato/parmesan/mushroom/spinach frittata, a salad, great bread and cheese, and a strawberry-rhubarb oatmeal bake with maple yogurt. So good. (You can hopefully find these recipes in next week’s Featherstone CSA newsletter.)

The rest of the afternoon was spent planning for our first newsletter going out with the crop share boxes we will send out tomorrow. This is an exciting time at the farm as these will be the first in the series of 12 boxes that will go out weekly to nearly 600 families.

I was also able to spend over an hour in the middle of 3 acres of lettuce taking pictures. A truck kept driving back and forth dumping and loading gravel onto a site, and I think he thought I was crazy. A few times he caught me actually laying down to capture a good shot. Another interesting encounter I had there was with a beekeeper, who was dropping in to see if we wanted to use his bees again this year; his bees pollinated our melons last year. He explained to me the plight of the beekeeper these days as many are dying out due what the keeper said was ‘pesticides and politics.’

Among other things I learned today was how rusty my Spanish actually is. I mistakingly told Saul that the asparagus was the same color as his road. ( I mixed up camisa and camina. ) The brothers got a good chuckle out of that one, like they usually do at our Spanglish attempts.

At the end of the day I felt a great sense of physical accomplishment as tangible results could be seen as a result of our labor- a feeling that one doesn't often encounter in school. I have to admit it felt slightly good to have a mildly sore back and a scrape on my hand. (I'm going to be eating my words come mid-July.)

Some sweat, laughs, fears, and reliefs were all had in a hard day's work.


Kellybot said...

Hi, Melinda! I'm a Featherstone member - we pick up at Seward Co-op. I've enjoyed reading your blog so far and am excited to keep up with it this season. It's a great little slice of inside information. Also, the newsletter looks awesome.

Have a great summer!
Kelly Barto

Melinda said...

Hi Kelly, thanks for reading. I've always been curious about what goes on beyond my plate as well, so I'm happy to bring this information to you!

People like yourself are the reason CSAs are able to exist, thanks for the support!

Enjoy the harvest.

Anonymous said...

Now I'm intrigued - what is the right way to wash lettuce? :)

Melinda said...

Hey Erin, thanks for the inquiry ! Well- the way we wash lettuce at Featherstone is as follows: softly submerge the head into the bin of cold water (the leaves are delicate), grab it by the knob on the bottom (where it was cut from the root), give it a gentle swirl under water with a few twists of your wrist, bring it out of the water, and shake the excess water back into the bin.

Voila ! And you have clean lettuce.