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Why we grow colorful lettuce

posted Jun 5, 2019, 9:26 AM by Caroline Swansey
Today is the first day of the Camas'Farmer's market and I just finished my morning harvest of lettuces. While harvesting a thought kept coming back to my mind: "what if people won't want to buy our lettuce because it isn't iceberg lettuce, it isn't extremely sugary but instead has a balance of sweet and bitter common in the lettuce family, what if they won't buy it because most of our lettuces are intensely colored in dark greens, red and speckles of all shades inbetween..." 
So I thought back on why we grow the types of lettuces that we do and it goes back to a book that I read many years back called "Eating on the Wild Side" by Jo Robinson. In her book she described how to choose your lettuces for the highest nutrition so I went back to the book this morning and here are a few pointers she mentions:

"As a general rule, the most intensely colored salad greens have the most phytonutrients. Ironically, the most nutritious greens are in the supermarket are not green at all but red, purple, or reddish brown."

The phytonutrients are anthocyanins which "are powerful antioxidants that show great promise in fighting cancer, lowering blood pressure, slowing age-related memory loss, and even reducing the negative effects of eating high-sugar and high-fat foods."

"the next most nutritious greens are dark green"

"Dark green varieties are rich in a phytonutrient called lutein, which is another powerful antioxidant and has been shown to protect eye health and calm inflammation"

Another way to choose the most nutritious greens is the arrangement of leaves, open heads increase phytonutrient content because plants produce "pigment antioxidants that block the harmful effects of UV light", the plants "botanical sunscreen" which is produced in high quantities when the leaves are not hidden in a ball in the middle.

Lastly, Jo Robinson mentions nutritious greens are "more intense in flavor than greens lower in food value"

And of course the closer to harvest time you eat the greens the higher the nutrition.

So when I choose my seeds for the lettuces I want to grow for our community, I am always looking for the most nutritious varieties, which meant I had to find the most intensely colored lettuce varieties. I found a great local seeds company,, and nearly all of our lettuce seed is purchased from their wide selection of lettuces.

My hope is that when you go out and buy fresh lettuce, you think for a minute about why you want to eat a salad. If you decide that it is to get nutrients that have amazing health benefits perhaps you will feel adventurous enough to try some intensely color lettuces filled with phytonutrients and antioxidants, grown with love and without pesticides using only organic methods. 

Dan will be at the market today and I am staying home with the kids but I am hoping health and vitality will reach all corners of this community!


Caroline Swansey,
Jun 5, 2019, 9:26 AM