building a beautiful and bountiful world in collaboration with nature

Archive for June, 2014

Celtuce and Other Unusual Foods

Celtuce busy growing

Celtuce busy growing with perennial kale

Like many gardeners and farmers, I have this love affair with seed catalogs every winter.  The descriptions of vegetable are often mouth-watering, their potentials amazing.  The veggie beds in my wintertime imagination are filled with astounding wonders.

I have heard rumours that our ancestors of hundreds or more years ago ate a much broader array of plant foods than we do.  The buffet they chose from had a selection that numbered in the hundreds or even thousands of veggies and fruits. Knowing as we do what amazing chemists the various members of the plant kingdom are, this means that the selection of nutritives available to our ancestors was huge.  Fine subtleties in a plant’s chemistry can also make a big difference in the information that is downloaded to our bodies.  With the number of species that most Americans now eat limited to less than 50, we aren’t getting the same quality of nutrition or the diversity of information to which our ancestors had access.

As a food grower, I can reverse that trend, so every year I trial varieties or species that are new to me.  Last year I experimented with Oka Hijiki, a Japanese green also called seaweed plant because it is loaded with minerals.  A wiry little plant, it was a nice extra in my salads.  Unfortunately, I didn’t save seed for it and have discovered that its seeds don’t seem to keep for long.  This year’s germination was very poor.  I will be growing more, once I acquire more seed.

One of this year’s experimental selections is Celtuce.  Lettuce.  Celery.  Celtuce is not a cross of the two, but was promised as delivering some of each flavor.  Lettuce it certainly is.  The early leaves are tasty, but it is the stalk of the plant that is the interesting part.  It grows quite long, compared to a lettuce, without bolting.  I’m not sure it delivers on the promise of celery flavor except in the mildest way.  I have found I like it peeled and sliced in rounds, then tossed in near the end of a saute with other veggies.  It adds a crunchy lettuce flavor where leaf lettuce doesn’t survive.

Jelly Melon is another of this year’s trial vegetables.  I will let you know what it’s like later in the season.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Catalog and Seed Savers Exchange are my favorite sources for odd and unusual foods.

Let me know what new, rare, or plain oddball edibles you are growing!