Mixed lettuce is one of my favorite things to grow. It is beautiful, with its wide variety of colors and shapes. It is delicious, and nutritious. But, one reason I love it has nothing to do with its food value. No, it brings back one of those sweet, childhood memories that somehow shaped my life....especially what I presently do for a living.
When I was about six years old, we went to visit some of my mother's friends. Growing up in rural Virginia, any summertime visit included a trip to the garden. This provided a chance for a little braggin' for the gardener, and a learning experience (although no one thought about it) for the visitor. The folks we went to visit were old-time gardeners. The type born with a green thumb, no doubt. A trip to the garden was like a visit to some type of wonderland. You could actually see the love and dedication in the straight rows, the weed-free plantings, and the abundant crops.
This particular time, the item that caught our eye was lettuce. Huge, green, frilly lettuces. I had never seen lettuce growing before. These were prime specimens, too. They seemed as big as beach balls. Nothing would do but we must take one. Mr. Payne insisted! He cut one with his pocket knife, dispatched his wife to the house for an ice cube, and took us to the springhouse to cool it in water. I watched and listened as he rubbed the icecube over the stem end. He said that if you cooled the sap and stopped it "bleeding", the lettuce would stay crisp and sweet. He must have been right, because I still remember that lettuce being the best I ever had!
Today, one of our specialties as a farm is lettuce. We grow a number of types and a variety of mixes. It is quite popular. Somehow, that goes back to a man who shared his love of the garden with a little girl eager to learn. Isn't that great?