Veggie Tales: goodbye lettuce, hello peas!

We’ve been enjoying fresh salad from the garden for weeks, and lately I was wondering when the bounty would come to an end. I recalled reading that when lettuce bolts it becomes bitter and is best sent to the composter. The last couple of salads we’ve had have been a tad bitter, but I didn’t actually know what bolted lettuce looked like. So I Googled it. Here is a picture of bolted lettuce:

Instead of a roundish clump of lettuce the plant begins to grow upwards on a thick stalk so that it becomes more conical in shape, like a Christmas tree. 

With this image in mind I headed out to the garden and found one plant that definitely fit the bill, another that was pretty close. It is kind of sad because there is just so much lettuce growing in my garden right now, all different kinds of greens. I can’t possibly eat it all and some of it is not that tasty anymore. But I know it will all go into the composter and thus contribute to the next crop of food. It’s not a waste (yet one more wonderful thing about organic gardening). 

So what’s up next? Well, I started harvesting carrots. These are a rainbow variety and they sure look pretty on the plate, don’t they?

And these aren’t even the nicest – the next batch (for which I sadly do not have a photo) had some really dark purple ones. They aren’t very big – a limitation of having only 6″ of soil in which to grow. Some of them were tasty, a few were rather woody. I can’t say the flavour was all that impressive, but I prefer my carrots sweet. Of course, I savoured each one thinking about what went into getting them here on the table, and how long I’d waited for them. I think next year I’ll plant carrots in either a deeper box or perhaps I’ll try a regular flower bed (i.e. not a container). Or I might try the short, thick variety.

Those bulbs in the photo above are my red onions. The tops have browned and fallen over but they aren’t much bigger than when I planted them (that plate is not a dinner plate, it’s a dessert plate). They aren’t really usable, but I left a few in the ground to see if they get any bigger. Meanwhile my multiplier onions are very tall and have burst out of their ‘capsules’ to produce tiny flowers. Some have already started to brown and fall over, and they are bursting up out of the soil. I won’t really know until I dig them up but they are looking more promising than the reds.

The greatest joy, however, has come from the Sugar Snap Peas. I plucked my first few pods off the VERY tall vines (my trellis was just under 6 feet and the plants are easily getting close to 8!) and I swear, I am not just exaggerating because they are my plants: they were hands down the BEST sugar snap peas I have ever had! Everybody who has sampled them has commented on how sweet they are. They are fat and crisp and delicious!! I could snack on them all day. Next year I am going to build a bigger trellis with smaller holes in the mesh* and plant a ton of these suckers! Does anybody know what I can do to preserve some of this harvest? Should I shell them and freeze them? Or just enjoy them while I can?

So I’m bidding farewell to the salad days of spring, and hello to the sweet crunchy goodness of a sugar snap pea summer!

In my next post we’ll talk about plans for fall and winter plantings (yes, apparently it’s that time already).


* you may recall the efforts I went through to find the trellis netting that Mel specified in his book. Well, my peas obviously would have preferred more to grab onto in the growing stages – they got tangled around each other alot as the curly feelers reached out and didn’t find anything except a neighbouring stalk


10 responses to this post.

  1. If you re-seed your lettuce you should get at least one more crop in before fall – and in our climate, you can switch up to hardier greens like mizuna and keep picking all winter. Actually, you can fill all your harvested spaces with winter veg now – broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, chard, turnips, parsnips… they will all grow, if slowly, and you can have fresh garden veg into February and beyond!

    Snap peas are best fresh, but in a pinch you can blanch and freeze them, then use them in stir-fries. (The blanching helps keep their colour.)


  2. My first harvest of carrots looked very much the same. I was a bit disheartened. This year I did try one of the shorter fatter varieties and am ver mush more pleased. A bit of advice though. Do as spughy says and get those fall plantings in, and in the midst of them plant a square or two of carrots. If you let them grown until after the first or second hard frost, you’ll have the sweetest carrots ever! Last year I left small (similar to your sized carrots) in the ground over the entire winter and pulled them in the spring and my gosh they were good. I don’t know what your winter adv. temps are but you can probably get away with bedding them under some straw and leave them.
    Good luck


  3. Posted by ruralaspirations on July 9, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    Wow! Thanks for the super advice, guys! I feel like there is SO much to learn…I’ll plant more carrots!


  4. That looks so good. We just picked up the SFG book and are looking forward to the same sweet joys of growing our own.


  5. Oh my goodness! You have white carrots! What are these called and where can I order them? I eat a lot of carrots, to the point that the palms of my hands and soles of my feet are a bit orangy – this isn’t too weird in the summer, but looks quite odd in the winter. I should just eat fewer carrots I know, but white carrots would also help!


  6. The best carrots from my CSA seem to be Red Cosmic carrots. Their orange ones get woody quickly unfortunately.


  7. Posted by ruralaspirations on July 13, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    Theresa: the carrots are from West Coast Seeds, Rainbow Blend.

    Chile: am I to understand then that the woodiness is from leaving them in the ground too long?


  8. Thanks RA – that West Coast Seeds website looks like a great resource…


  9. great to see such colourful food! what variety were your sugar snaps? the sounded really good!


  10. […] and peek” and end up getting my hands dirty. Last week I took out all the lettuce plants as they had bolted and our last salad was definitely on the bitter side of fresh. I also removed the gai lan, which […]


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