Healthy Soil, Healthy Plants

Food is only as good as the soil it’s grown in

“Food is only as good as the soil it’s grown in,” says Lisa Fuller. “As an organic farmer, that is imperative because that’s where the food is coming from.”

One Song Farm uses organic, bio-intensive methods to grow produce. No fuel is used to dig, plant, cultivate, weed, water or harvest. One Song saves seeds, creating plants that are suited to Kaua’i’s climate.

What’s growing now: Arugula, beets, beet greens, cabbage, Canasta lettuce, cilantro, daikon, fresh eating turnip, green leaf lettuce, kale, radish, romaine lettuce, perpetual spinach.

ROMAINE LETTUCE

Depictions appearing in ancient Egyptian tombs date the cultivation of lettuce to 4,500 B.C. Also known as Cos, the lettuce is believed to have originated on the Greek Island of Kos. The name romaine may have been given because the lettuce reached Western Europe through Rome.

At One Song Farm, romaine is grown from seed that Sun and Lisa saved over a number of years. The seed has been selected for taste and quality, and has adapted to the soil.

Fuel-free farmers Lisa Fuller and Sun. Daniel Lane photos

Season: Since everything is done by hand, this small farm can produce romaine lettuce year-round.

What to look for: One Song produces the biggest, most beautiful heads of romaine I have ever seen. Easily weighing in at more than a pound, the long, graceful leaves are crisp, sturdy and free of holes. “There’s a banquet in the soil,” Sun says, “so bugs don’t touch the produce.” Heads should be compact, and edges should be free of brown or yellow discoloration and stem ends should be white.

Storage: One Song’s lettuces are extremely healthy plants. I accidentally forgot mine in a reusable bag tucked behind the front seat of the Jeep for 36 hours. I refreshed it in a sink full of water and used it in the salad pictured here. If you don’t do this to your lettuce, it will easily last a week wrapped in a plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator.

Tip: Once harvested, romaine has a slightly bitter taste that will sweeten over several days.

Preparation: In salads, romaine pairs well with crunchy vegetables such as radishes, cucumbers and onions as well as with slivers of fruit and nuts. It’s a good lettuce to use with heavy dressings such as avocado or blue cheese.

One Song’s big, beautiful romaine

Health benefits: Romaine is king when it comes to the nutritional value of lettuce. One hundred grams provides 174 percent of the daily value of vitamin A, necessary for strong bones and teeth, cell regeneration, digestion, rich blood, soft skin and night vision. It’s also very high in vitamin K, which is necessary for blood clotting and prevents osteoporosis. One Song’s romaine is high in silicon because they replenish the soil with it. This mineral is essential for strength and durability in tissues, elasticity of skin, bone and cartilage calcification, brain functioning and cardiovascular health.

One Song’s produce can be found at: Grocery: Papaya’s Natural Foods and Hoku Whole Foods. Restaurants: Java Kai in Kapa’a and Coconut Cup. Farmers Market: Kapa’a Wednesdays at 3 p.m. Sun offers hands-on garden workshops at their farm. Call 635-3020.

EMPIRE SALAD

Select lettuce with compact heads

I thought a salad brimming with nutrients would be an excellent post-holiday recipe. Creamy dressing with garlic, lemon and capers make a bright foil for the crisp and juicy romaine. This is a salad vegans can enjoy, and leftover dressing makes an excellent sandwich spread. Adapted from 101cookbooks.com.

* One Song romaine lettuce head, chopped
* croutons, preferably homemade
* 1/3 cup slivered almonds
* 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
* 3/4 cup silken tofu
* 1/4 cup olive oil
* 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
* 1 heaping tablespoon capers
* 4 teaspoons caper brine
* 1 teaspoon sugar
* 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
* Hawaiian sea salt
* fresh ground pepper

Empire Salad with creamy vegan dressing. Daniel Lane photos

Pulse almonds in food processor or blender until crumbly.

Add garlic, tofu, oil and blend until creamy.

Add lemon juice, capers, caper brine, sugar, mustard powder and pulse until blended.

Adjust the salt, pepper and lemon juice, to taste.

If too thick, thin with water to desired consistency.

Toss lettuce and croutons with 1/2 cup dressing, adding more to suit your taste. Store leftover dressing in a jar in the refrigerator. Divide among eight plates and enjoy!

Makes eight servings.

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