Lettuce and Tomatoes

We’re a week or two away from the beginning of what looks to be a bumper crop of tomatoes. In last year’s crazy wet, cold summer we lost nearly all of our tomatoes to blight.  So it’s a relief to see them coming in so strong this year.  I may have planted too many.  We’ll see.  If so, it’s not a bad problem to have.

Meanwhile, we’re finishing up the last of this year’s lettuce.  Our spring lettuce this year was the best we’ve ever grown.  Even though the lettuce gardens have now been plowed up (one is now covered in young sunflowers and the other in sweet potato plants), we’re still enjoying great salads every day as Cherie nurses along the last heads that we cut a couple of weeks ago.  Last night she made a delicious soup featuring peas and Romaine lettuce.

But the lettuce will be gone by the time the tomatoes arrive.  I wonder how many people realize how unnatural it is to have lettuce and tomato on a sandwich or in a salad.  While I realize that it’s technically possible to grow lettuce and tomatoes at the same time, and some folks manage to do it, the fact is that lettuce is a cool weather crop and tomatoes are a hot weather crop.  They don’t naturally go together.  Seasonal eaters rarely eat them together.  Anytime you have lettuce and tomato together, at least one (and probably both) came from a long ways away.

Even though the lettuce is gone till fall, that doesn’t mean we won’t be having salads any more. Instead it means that we now get to enjoy delicious tomato salads.  Because that’s what summer is supposed to taste like.

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17 comments on “Lettuce and Tomatoes

  1. This is interesting to me. Being so much farther north than you, our experience has been very different. Our shorter growing season creates an overlap that I don’t think you see where you are (and makes me crazy reading your posts about harvesting your first crops when our first seeds are going into trays amid frost!)… but I digress.

    We have only been harvesting lettuces for about two weeks. They are robust and growing heartily now, just as our tomato plants are beginning to really flower. We don’t anticipate seeing tomatoes for another month, but the lettuce won’t be gone by then. It will wilt on extremely hot days, to be sure, and it will be more inclined to bolt as well. We do always enjoy lettuces and tomatoes together for at least a few weeks. Near the end of the summer, we switch over to rainbow chard for the salad bowl which, I have to assume, is better for salads than sunflower seeds. 🙂

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    • Bill says:

      Well shut my mouth. I see now that I made the mistake of assuming that what is true about growing seasons here is true everywhere. It seems that lettuce and tomatoes aren’t necessarily unnatural companions after all. A local friend told me that even here lettuce can be kept going in the summer if grown in a shaded hoophouse. And of course a hoophouse will also enable starting tomatoes sooner. So with some effort we can have both lettuce and tomatoes here. I can’t, but some folks can.

      For putting up with such long harsh winters y’all deserve things like simultaneous lettuce and tomatoes. 🙂

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  2. I’ve had that same thought. In fact, eating seasonally here you really don’t get to eat salad after March or maybe April. When I say I garden people always mention a fresh salad. They seem surprised when I say, “that’s actually a winter crop in Arizona”. Strange that as a culture we’ve become accustomed to having every fruit and vegetable available all year.

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    • Bill says:

      Even here in a largely rural community that basic knowledge of the seasonality of food has been destroyed by grocery stores. Last year we had someone come up to us at the farmers market and ask for sweet corn. The person stormed off, clearly upset, when I said we didn’t have any yet. It was May.

      Sometimes people come to the market selling produce they’ve bought, passing it off as locally grown. A few weeks ago someone was selling tomatoes, peppers and squash. The rest of us vendors were steamed about it, but he had people lined up to buy them. They could be easily duped because they don’t understand the growing seasons.

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  3. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, our salads of today never happened in my youth. I can remember the days when seasonal eating was the normal. Those anticipated diamond back water melons from Texas would bring folks to the stores by the droves. The Colorado or Missouri peaches were the best. Now the fruit comes from …. well who knows where. It may not even be in this country. There is no seasonal eating and most every kind of fruit or vegetable can be found in the store at any time of the year. For that convenience, shoppers have given up taste and nutrition. They have lived with tasteless food for so long that it has been forgotten just how magnificent the taste of natural food is. I for one like the seasonal eating with taste. Unfortunately, the farmer’s markets do not have many natural growers here. Roadside stands abound here but it’s a given that pesticides, fungicides, and every other kind of “cides” have been used to produce the blemish free perfect looking fruits and vegetables. But that’s another whole dimension of food culture.

    Have a great seasonal eating day.

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  4. Two more of my favorite things about summer: tomatoes and corn from Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
    Wait, three: sunflowers!

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    • Bill says:

      Those are certainly great summer treats. We’re probably still a couple of weeks away from my first tomato sandwich of the year. I’m really looking forward to it. 🙂

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  5. I know what you mean, but like Apple Wood Farm, I’m in such a different climate zone from you that tomato and lettuce sandwiches are very much a local seasonal treat for a month or more – maybe the end of July, but probably through most of August and into September. I occasionally rant though about the unseasonality of the strawberry/rhubarb combination, which for me at least can only be achieved with one or other of the two being frozen. This season is the closest I’ve come in years to achieving it naturally, and really, the strawberry/rhubarb crisp was all strawberry with just a stalk or two of rhubarb. My rhubarb is usually done by now, but it held on just enough to meet the slightly earlier than usual strawberry season.

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    • Bill says:

      I’m glad to learn that lettuce and tomatoes do go naturally together in places. I can’t imagine trying to grow lettuce in the heat of the summer here, but I understand that even here it can be done.

      Rhubard is not part of our food culture here. I tried growing some here one year but it was a fail. To the best of my knowledge I’ve never eaten it in my life.

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  6. Dee Ready says:

    Dear Bill, every time I visit your blog for the one posting I get to read that week, you teach me something. Lettuce and tomatoes–two different growing seasons and so an ill-match on a sandwich or in a salad! Who would have “thunk” it! Peace.

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    • Bill says:

      Well Dee, in response to this post farmers in more northern climes have taught me that tomatoes and lettuce are in at the same time where they live and can be eaten together seasonally. I hadn’t realized that. I suspect it’s still true in most places however that lettuce and tomatoes aren’t generally growing at the same time.

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  7. shoreacres says:

    You can add me to the list of blessed folk who get lettuce and tomato at the same time. There still was Romaine last week, and the tomatoes are in full force, so it’s BLTs for a time, with applewood smoked bacon.

    It is interesting to see how seasons vary around the country. I’m on my way back to the you-pick-it farm tonight for more blackberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant. The canteloupe will be ripe in a week.

    I just got my email from the farm farther north. Tomorrow, I’ll get some of the first sweet corn of the year from them, along with Lady Cream peas and peaches. Good times in Texas!

    By the way, the email from the farm said, “We’ve been busy adding extra deer-proofing to our melon patch. If you happen to know who the patron saint of canteloupe is, you might offer up an extra prayer.” 😉

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    • Bill says:

      All those are summertime foods here too. That’s what I think of when I think of summer eating. But not lettuce. I stand corrected, however.

      I could have used some divine intervention last night in my watermelon garden. Seeing what happened to it overnight was like getting punched in the gut. I found myself literally hating deer this morning. I’ll vent in tomorrow’s post.

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  8. EllaDee says:

    Makes perfect sense to my taste preferences, but I never knew why. I like [homegrown] tomato salad and a sliced tomato alone or maybe with onion in a sandwich, and lettuce in a sandwich or a simply dressed green salad but hate them combined.

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    • Bill says:

      I’ve never much cared for them together either. Of course most of the time folks are combining cardboard-like tomatoes and iceberg lettuce, so what’s the point. But really good lettuce and really good tomatoes should be the stars of a salad, rather than co-stars. 🙂

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