Late spring harvests at Stonegate Farm begin early in the morning, when the tender greens are cool and moist and the edible blossoms are barely open.
An assembled salad mix, with three varieties of loose-leaf lettuce, plus broccoli rabe and garlic chive blossom.
It’s a rude awakening for the greens, still lost in their chlorophyll dreams as they’re abruptly sheared from sleep, but this is their moment on the farm, before the heat sends them into a feverish bolt.
When the season winds down months from now, it’s these salad days I’ll miss most.
Boxes of blossom and leaf, ready to be mixed.
Creating a great salad is a symphonic act, with texture, color, form and taste all playing their parts.
This week’s lettuce mix, for example, is a combination of smooth, neon-green Simpson, the loose and mottled leaves of Red Sails, and the crimped frill of purple Lolla-Rosa. Throw in sprays of golden broccoli rabe blossom and the tangy blue florets of garlic chive and the music really begins.
It’s tempting to eat it right out of hand.
I used to have a somewhat ambivalent relationship with salad until I started growing my own. It all seemed pretty bland, unless it was dolled up with a strong vinaigrette or a good and goaty chèvre. But now I could happily live on the farm’s mixed greens alone, with their subtle and complex flavors and form. And the edible flowers take the whole leafy harvest to eleven.
Lettuces and blossoms are hand mixed and bagged just before pick-up
Taste alone is argument enough to eat local and organic greens, but when you factor in the short half-life of lettuce, and that – once harvested – they lose fifty percent of their nutritional value, or half of their vitamins, minerals and enzymes, it makes a week-old lettuce harvest from Salinas, California seem like a cruel proxy for the real deal.
Each week this season, the blend will be different depending on what’s harvestable. Mesclun and mustards added to the mix will bring on the heat, bok choy will fill the mid-summer gap when lettuce sulks, and edible flowers such as nasturtium, calendula, and borage will bling both the eye and mouth.
Saturday pick-up at the farm.
The organic greens at Stonegate are bound to be flavorful, colorful, nutritious and downright seductive which – all sustainabilty arguments aside – is why we’re here. –Mb