Lettuce Speak Of Summer Salads

North Country Farms is a three-acre, organic family farm in Kilauea where the Roversi family has been growing vegetables, fruits and flowers for more than 25-years. Lee Roversi’s oldest child, Sky Roversi-Deal, is taking over farm operations, and Bay Roversi-Deal, Lee’s youngest child, provides landscaping for the property.

What’s growing now:

Apple banana, arugula, avocados, basil, bush beans, beets, carrots, chayote, cherry tomatoes, cilantro, cream apple, dill, eggplant, eggs, fennel, grapefruit, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce (seven varieties), limes, lilikoi, lychee, mangos, mountain apple, parsley, peppers, oranges, oregano, Oriental steaming greens, pac choi, papaya, pomelo, radishes, rosemary, sage, scallions, spinach, star fruit, sweet potatoes, Swiss chard, tat sai, tangerine, tropical flowers, tulsi basil, white pineapple, winter squash.

SUMMER LETTUCE

“There are certain types of lettuce that do horrible in the summer,” says Roversi. “Romaine for instance. It bolts, it gets really bitter, and leathery.

But there are some varieties that do wonderfully in the summer.”

“Summer lettuce is heat tolerant,” says Sky, “and the leaves are thinner and softer than the crunchy ones that are cool weather crops.”

There are seven gorgeous varieties of summer lettuce grown at North Country Farms: Skyphos, a butter-head with a large, dark-red head, and contrasting green center; Magenta, crisp with whirls of red tinged leaves and a green heart; Panisse, with delicate, lime green, lobed leaves; Red Fire, with large, loose heads that are green at the base, and dark-red at the ruffled leaf edges; Nevada, crisp with vibrant green leaves that are glossy, thick, and beautifully ruffled; Two Star, crisp leaves styled with lacy edges, and Green Oak, a sweet and tender lettuce with light green ruffled leaves.

“Lettuce is our signature crop,” says Roversi, who sells five small heads for $5. “Everybody at Namahana goes straight for our lettuce.”

Season: Lettuce takes an average of 60 days to go from seed to table. Summer lettuce is available from June throughout September.

What to look for:

Look for perky leaves, free of damage and brown spots. Wilted lettuce can be a sign of age, but at market it’s often a case of heat exhaustion. Soaking wilted lettuce in a sink of cold water usually revives them.

Storage:

Put lettuce in a sealed bag, and store in the refrigerator crisper. Keep the temperature of your refrigerator in the middle. If you set it too low, you risk freezing the moisture on the leaves. This will make them mushy. If you have a humidity setting, set it to low.

Local, organic lettuce keeps for about two weeks.

Preparation:

“I twist off the bottom,” says Roversi, “and I get the sink full of really cold water. I put the lettuce in the sink, and give it a good drink of water. Then I gently put it in a colander and let it rest and drain, and then I spin it. I never break up the lettuce until I’m ready to eat it.”

Tip:

“I think it’s sacrilegious to put a knife to lettuce,” says Roversi. “It bruises it. I tear the lettuce into bite-sized pieces with my hands.”

Health benefits:

Lettuce leaves contain many phytonutrients that promote good health and help to prevent disease. Two cups of lettuce contains 17 calories, 3 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of protein, and 174 percent of the daily value for vitamin A.

Lettuce is one of the richest sources of the carotenoids beta-carotene (5225 mcg for 2 cups) and zeaxanthin (2312 mcg).

All carotenoids are antioxidants that protect the body from damaging molecules called free radicals.

Free radicals cause damage to cells through a process known as oxidation. Over time, this damage can lead to a number of chronic illnesses. There is good evidence that getting more antioxidants through your diet helps boost your immune system, protect against free radicals, and may lower your risk of heart disease and cancer. The issue is murky when it comes to taking antioxidant supplements.

North Country Farms produce can be found at:

Farmers Markets: Namahana Saturdays (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) Their weekly CSA provides fresh, organic food to the community. If you would like to be added to the waiting list, call 828-1513 or email north-countryfarms@gmail.com.

NELL’S TAHINI VINAIGRETTE

Lee’s daughter Nell is a private chef for Surfbird Charters, a custom-built, 115-foot steel-hulled yacht designed for expedition travel. Her recipe is a client favorite. The vinaigrette is thick, creamy, and sublime on North Country Farms summer lettuce. It also pairs well with vegetable and grain dishes.

Makes 2 1/2 cups.
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
6 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Blend everything except the oil in a blender or food processor until combined. With motor on, add oil in a thin stream.

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