All About Lettuce!

babyheadsWhenever I think about Blue Moon’s baby lettuce heads I think about Alex Levine, Whole Earth Center’s beloved deli manager. Last year when I delivered the seasons’ first baby lettuce harvest, Alex pulled a glistening head from the box, tore off a leaf, and began feasting—right there in the walk-in cooler. It was the first, fresh greenery he’d had since the previous autumn, and judging by the ecstatic look of satiety that filled his eyes, it was much needed. Like Alex, I’ll often eat lettuce straight from the head—greedily, luxuriating in the texture, the taste, the privilege of eating local lettuce so early in the season. And after a winter like this year’s, it’s just what the doctor ordered.

Lettuce is so ubiquitous we rarely stop to think about its origins. It was the Egyptians who first cultivated the plant, turning it from an oil-producing weed into a crop grown exclusively for its leaves. They used lettuce to honor their reproduction god, Min, whose stamina was purportedly benefited by copious consumption of the crop. These early lettuce strains resembled a large version of romaine, and later spread to the Greeks, and then the Romans, and finally to Europe. It was the barbaric Christopher Columbus who brought lettuce, along with pestilence and disease, to the Americas.

Originally, lettuce had to be sold close to where it was grown, thanks in part to its short life span and delicate nature. But with the advent of new packing, storage and shipping technologies in the early 1900s, lettuce began to proliferate. The later development of ‘vacuum cooling’, which allowed for the crop to be cooled and packed in the field, only added to its popularity.

Blue Moon Acres Baby Head Lettuce - SaladAt Blue Moon, we grow five varieties of baby lettuce heads. Red “Little Gem”, Green “Sucrine”,  Green “Oakleaf,” Green “Sweet Crisp”,  and red “Incised”. The first harvest of these beauties is always a special occasion—they are the very first crop of the season, and, as such, mark the arrival of spring. And whether you choose to enjoy them in a salad, on a wrap or sandwich, or, like Alex and I, straight from the head, they’re delicious.

By | March 27th, 2015|News|0 Comments

A Brief (and Mouthwatering!) History of Risotto

imagesI was never a Risotto fan. In fact, before we started growing Italian rice here at Blue Moon, I can’t even say that I’d ever had the dish. But then one day, resident rice connoisseur Jim Lyons brought some freshly-cooked risotto into our office. I was hooked. Within a week, I was using our Arborio to make my own Risotto, a ritual I’ve repeated a half-dozen times since.

Risotto’s history is an interesting one. The shorter-grain rice varieties that would later be the dish’s foundation made their way into Sicily and Spain by way of Arab merchants. From there, they spread throughout Italy, consumed mainly by the upper class. But it was not till these varieties caught the attention of elites in Spanish-occupied Milan that the techniques we now associate with modern Risotto—slow-cooking; the use of stock, onions, butter, wine, parmesan, and saffron—were developed. Today, the dish remains largely unchanged.

Almost without exception, Risotto is made from one or more of the following varieties: Arborio, Baldo, Carnaroli, Maratelli, and Vialone Nano. It is because of their ability to absorb liquids and release starch that these are used. Generally speaking, the higher the starch content (amylopectins), the more creamy and textured the final product. That’s why long grain rice—very low in amylopectins, flakier and dryer— makes for a poor Risotto.

As a vegetarian, I’ve never made classic Risotto. Instead of chicken broth, I use vegetable broth, adding spinach and tomatoes, or sometimes even—yes—kale. Their version incorporated our own organic Maratelli rice, and contained, among other delicious ingredients, morel mushrooms. Morels are to Risotto what peanut-butter is to jelly: it’s an amazing combination, one I highly recommend you try ASAP!

pumpkin-zucca-risotto-14-1000Of course, there are a number of traditional variations on Risotto. There’s Risotto alla Milanese, made with beef stock, bone marrow, lard, and cheese. And Risotto al nero di sepia, prepared with the black ink sacs of cuttlefish. And then there’s Risotto alla zucca, made with pumpkin, nutmeg, and grated cheese.

But no matter how you prepare your Risotto, one thing is certain: With so many varieties of Italian rice available at Blue Moon, it’s hard to go wrong!

By | March 13th, 2015|News|0 Comments

Blue Moon Acres Cleans Up Bucks County!

By | March 2nd, 2015|Press|0 Comments