A lettuce experiment

You know those packages of butter lettuce you can get at the grocery store that have the roots still attached and neatly coiled at the bottom of the carton?  Though I usually opt for romaine or iceberg when I’m shopping the produce aisle, I have gotten a few heads of roots-still-attached butter lettuce in the last few years.  Mostly because they look so interesting and fresh in their little cartons.  And every time I bought a head of roots-still-attached butter lettuce, I had really good intentions of putting those roots to use and re-planting them to see if they might grow even more lettuce.

But I never actually followed through on my good intentions.  I always finished the lettuce and stashed the roots in the back of the frig for the rainy day on which I would do things like plant lettuce, and of course the rainy day never came, and I always eventually trashed the root and all its potential.

Until now.  Now things are different.  Here’s what happened:

I had a head of the aforementioned butter lettuce in the frig when all this Coronavirus craziness got going.  Eventually our family ate all the lettuce and we were left with the root.  With the root in hand I gathered the kids around me out at our garden spot.  I explained to them the science behind the plan.  We mixed up some soil in a medium pot, nestled the roots inside, watered the heck out of it, then moved the pot to a sunny place in our piano room.  And look!  Two weeks later, even though 2-year-old Muggins has fondled it overly much, the lettuce plant is alive and growing.  Pale green sprouts are leaning toward the sunshine out the window:


There are a few reasons why now was the exact right time to plant the stub and see what might happen:

1 We’re all trying to avoid going to town, right?  If I can grow my own lettuce at home, that’s one less thing I might need to go to town for.

2 I feel pretty good about our country picking itself up and eventually moving on from this pandemic mess.  But yet.  The notion of food shortages scares me, as does the uncertainty of post-COVID19 economic recovery in the U.S.  Shortages were evident last time I shopped (almost three weeks ago) in the potato, pasta, flour, sugar, rice, and toilet paper aisles, though the fresh produce supply was intact.  Tonight I attempted to place a pick-up order from Walmart, and still no paper towel.  Only a weird selection of pasta.  Limits on eggs.  And so on.  Produce seems to be hanging in there, but here’s the scary part as far as I’m concerned:  here in Montana all of our produce comes from a lo-o-o-o-ong ways away.  If ever things got worse and the faceless official who draws the line between essentials and non-essentials was up against it and had to decide… would fresh produce for Montana be considered an essential?  …If I can learn to grow my own lettuce at home, that’s one more way we can take care of ourselves.

3 Maybe this crisis is a big call for our nation to get real.  We’ve been bathing in milk and honey for so long that it’s become easy to take good things for granted.  Maybe now is the time to realize again some of the common sense that’s been lost in the last couple generations.  To re-learn where food comes from.  To re-learn frugalness.  To re-learn true appreciation.


Along those lines, I’m making plans for a little garden for the first time in many years.  How about you?  I’ll keep you updated on the garden, and I’ll keep you updated on the lettuce experiment too.

© Tami Blake

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