The Story of Lettuce

Holy moly…is it COLD, or what! We had planned for 10 degrees or a little lower last night, but this morning upon rising I was SHOCKED that it was -9 degrees. That is 9 below ZERO, which is 40 degrees below FREEZING! Think about that–instant vapor crystals in your nose, a full breath of warm fog when you exhale, ground that crunches when you step on it…you know, the type of weather where you hug the warm home. If you do have to leave you bundle up…don’t forget your scarf and gloves…and start your car ahead of time. I mean–so cold The Farmer’s 1Ton diesel Dodge WILL NOT STAY RUNNING. (Even diesel gels when it is this cold!)

So what about the lettuce in the hoophouse? This morning, the farmer parted the zipper and stepped in to access the damage. The propane heater was still running, the internal temperature read 26 degrees, though it was still below zero outside. The lettuce was glassy looking, the tomatoes were toast, and the cucumbers were yellow and curled. He zipped things back up and trudged back to the house to head to church.

This afternoon the pesky Farmer’s Wife insisted that The Farmer bring in a couple of heads of lettuce to see how badly they were damamged. All morning she had worked through her mind the Post she needed to write about the passing of the lettuce; she lamented the fact that just when people were ordering it…it was gone. You can imagine her excitement and delight when The Farmer plopped a beautiful head of bright green lettuce with a delicate loose head in its center on the kitchen counter. She held her breath as the second head of lettuce was carefully laid next to it: darker green, full deep color with NO TRANSPARENCY, and the most beautiful head of Romaine she has ever seen in mid-November from the garden. Thank-you Hoophouse!

So, here is the skinny: lettuce can freeze, but will recover. Freezing does not burst the plant cells! However, repeated freezing can damage and kill the crop.

I noticed this after the first storm with the mini-lettuce in the garden. We had harvested half, and covered the other half with a blue dam canvas…(the kind you use in ditches…not an offensive adjective referring to hell bound.) We had abandoned a couple of ‘ugly’ plants with aphids. After the storm passed, the scragglers were still hanging on, minus the aphids. We harvested one to sample the taste–exquisite. Eventually, they secumbed with the repeated freezing temps and no protection.

Why am I sharing this story? For your education and edification, so you can share in our joy and amazement at the wonder of this earth and its creations, but mostly so you can join with us a celebration of the coming of winter by helping us to consume 400 heads of lettuce before the end of November.

We have covered the lettuce with Agro-bon (4 layers) to help insulate it during the sub-zero nights. We will continue to heat the hoop at night, which is not economically smart but necessary for this fall. We promise to eat as much as we can…Can you help us out? Buy a couple–they will keep in your fridge easier than in our hoophouse.

Orders due Sunday for pick up Wednesday. THANKS! The Elated Farmer’s Wife

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