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Quail Hill Farm | A Note From Scott | Early Fall

Quail Hill Farm
October 6, 2017

By Scott Chaskey

Celebrate Lettuce

As we bring in the fruits of autumn I want to pause for a moment to praise some greenery that has been part of the harvest throughout 3 seasons: Lactuca sativa, or commonly, lettuce. Perhaps I am mistaken, but by my count we have offered lettuce as part of your share on all but one of our 2017 Harvest days.  
 
For that to occur we have to be on our (farm) toes, and sun & moon, heat & cool, and rain must choose to cooperate. Lettuce is not difficult to grow, though this cultivar is not enamored of the heat of July and August. This leafy green much prefers the cool of early spring and later autumn, and even the cold winter nights somewhat protected in our greenhouses. I admit my bias - for me the evening meal is not complete without a salad, with lettuce in the starring role.

Our first seeding of the year occurred on the 17th of March: Red Cross, Red Fire, Red Rosie, Green Deer Tongue, Nevada, Crispino, and Forellenschluss (Speckled like a Trout), 1 seed per cell in trays arranged with 128 cells, 30 trays destined to be planted out in April (a potential of 3840 heads). Throughout the season we seed an additional 30 trays every 2-3 weeks; the seeds usually germinate in 7-10 days in our 65-70 degree greenhouse, and after 3 weeks they are escorted outside to the ‘hardening-off’ pen, and in another week we transplant the young seedlings into Amagansett soil.

On the 1st of August we seeded our 7th and final succession of lettuce: Sierra, Devil’s Ear, Pablo, Cocarde, Midnight Ruffles, Little Gem, Panisse, and Coastal Star, among others, and this planting has yet to be opened for harvest, as the Autumn growth in the field slows given shorter days. Look for more in the field as the fine month of October reveals itself. Although many lettuces have bolted (the natural impulse to produce seed) in the heat of September, a number of prize heads are holding out in the handsome field of brassicas on Birch Hill.  

Over the course of the harvest seasons something like 26,880 lettuces have ripened in our fields, with some lost to heat or rabbits - though most, we hope, have found a way onto your plates (more than a few have found a way to mine). For those members part of the Winter Share lettuce should continue to leaf out in our greenhouses into February.
 
Our CSA Harvest Days will run through Saturday, October 28th (including the Box Shares). After that, although the stand is “closed,” you are welcome to harvest what remains in the fields as long as it remains. Come on the day of your choosing, though please remember to close the gate should it be closed, if open leave it open. And you are welcome to call with any questions: 631-267-8492.  

Lettuce celebrate: not only the gift of 3 seasons of a delicious green plant, but also the brilliance (in the Valley) of Bright Lights Cosmos, Calendula, Tithonia, Crackerjack Marigolds, and yes, still a few sunflowers - in the words of the Italian poet, Eugenio Montale, “crazy with the light.”

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