As much as people might be more prone to desire a cold salad on a hot summer day, in Texas we must take our leafy greens when we can get them, and the time is now. Really, though, is it such a sacrifice to wait until fall for plates piled high with fresh lettuces? Personally, I don’t think so. And I’d venture to say most other folks agree, as is evidenced by the way they dig into our big containers of salad mixes at the farm stands.

Of course, we offer big beautiful heads of lettuces too – beautiful, because Farmer John keeps them safely tucked away under row covers as they grow and mature, only to unveil them long enough to accomplish his twice weekly harvests…after which he promptly covers them back up. The head lettuces are his babies, after all. It’s a rare day when anyone else on the farm is allowed to pick them.

As much as John enjoys nurturing and ultimately gathering the head lettuces, he despises – and I do mean despises – harvesting lettuce mix. We pick our lettuce mix leaf-by-leaf, you see, and it’s about as tedious and time-consuming a job as a person might imagine.

To add to the “fun,” our baby Asian greens,

our arugula,

our Euro salad mix, and our spinach

are all picked one leaf at a time, as well. We spend the two mornings prior to each farm stand huddled over these crops. We must pick them in the morning hours, and we must do it in two days time because once the sun is out in force, the tender leaves wilt and we have to move on to more hardy crops. Besides, a person can crouch and crawl for only so many hours.

As each harvester fills a bucket with the various greenery, he or she carries it into the salad shed for dual soaks – a dunk into the first sink to wash off the majority of soil still clinging to the leaves; a splash into the second sink to finish the job.

After that, the harvester gently scoops the leaves from the sink and places them into our bright orange, restaurant-sized salad spinner, gives it a whirl and tumps it all into one of the awaiting farm-stand-ready containers.

The harvester drains the sinks and begins refilling them with fresh water. When the next harvester brings in another bucket or two, the first harvester takes a newly emptied bucket back out to the salad row of choice. For two mornings, this happens over and over and over again with each and every harvester until each and every row of leafy greens is finished.

One or two days later, depending on the day of the week, it all begins again.

Those of us who work the farm are intimate with this process, and often forget that other people are not. I was reminded one Saturday when customer Jane was talking with me at the stand about her visit to the farm the previous week. Trying to describe a row she was particularly dazzled with, she exclaimed, “It looked like a salad growing right out of the ground!”

I loved that. And because I was sharing a check-out table with Farmer John at the time, I made a point to repeat Jane’s comment to him. He loved it too.

Maybe he’ll look at it in a new light and won’t be so averse to this week’s salad harvest…you think?

* * *

We have a wonderful bounty for your Thanksgiving dinner! Here’s what we’ll be bringing to the farm stand this Wednesday:

Broccoli; salads (of course!) – our all-lettuce salad mix; Euro mix; spinach; bags of arugula; bags of baby Asian greens; escarole (great for salads, as well as for cooking!); Red leaf lettuce; sweet white turnips; bunches of purple beets and bunches of golden beets; green onions; bunches of kohlrabi; watermelon radishes; Napa cabbages; bunches of Dinosaur kale and Curly kale; bunches of chard; bunches of collards; bunches of Brussels greens; heirloom eggplant and Italian eggplant; various peppers; cilantro; the first of the white cauliflower; and whatever else we might have time to pull together.

(Please note: Even though we do indeed wash our salad mixes before we bring them to market, you need to WASH THEM AGAIN – under running water is fine – before you eat them!)

Thanks, and Happy Thanksgiving!
Jo Dwyer
Angel Valley Organic Farm
Farm stands:
Saturdays 9:00-1:00 in Jonestown on FM 1431 at the blinking yellow light; and
Wednesdays 10:00-2:00 in NW Austin at the Asian American Center on Jollyville Road (1-1/2 blocks north of the intersection of Jollyville and Duval)

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