Readers who visited the Muskogee Farmers Market during the late summer through the present, and especially those who enjoy fresh picked lettuce, may have noticed an amazingly continuous supply at one of the grower’s stands.
Successfully growing lettuce over the summer in Oklahoma is no small task. Lettuce has this uncanny ability to keep track of how much heat and light it’s been exposed to, and once its threshold is reached, the plant begins trying to flower, or bolt.
This bolting results in a central stalk with leaves that begins to elongate and will eventually form flowers on the uppermost leaves at a height of 2 to 3 feet above the ground.
But well before any lengthening of the stalk can be noticed, the lettuce leaves begin to taste more bitter and less sweet, as means of defense for the plant to become less palatable to critters, in hopes of reproducing its seed after flowering.
And so, to prevent this inevitable demise in Oklahoma requires special effort, such as selecting varieties more tolerant of heat, sheltering plants from afternoon sun (through natural or applied shade) and providing consistent moisture.
Thankfully, the farmers market has at least one grower who is able to pull this off. And with only two more Saturdays remaining this season, don’t miss your chance to enjoy some freshly harvested lettuce.
Other locally-grown produce still available at the market includes apples, bell peppers, bok choy, collard greens, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, green beans, green and bulb onions, hot chili peppers, kale, long beans, mustard greens, potatoes, patty pan squash, radishes, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, cherry and slicing tomatoes (red and green), watermelon, winter squash, yellow squash, zucchini and more.
Market vendors also have other food items including hand-rolled tortillas, honey, beef, pork and chicken in a wide selection of frozen cuts, farm-fresh eggs and artisan blended cheeses. Hot and ready-to-eat items include hot dogs, links and sausages, plus tamales, burritos, soft tacos and more.
Some herb transplants, succulents and other plants are for sale at the market, as are painted pumpkins, ornamental gourds and wood crafts.
Simple green salad with balsamic vinaigrette
About 8 cups of mixed lettuce leaves (washed and torn)
1/2 cup of thinly sliced red onion
1/2 cup of thinly sliced bell pepper (purple, yellow or some other fun color)
1/4 cup of sliced almonds
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh mint (chopped)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Combine veggies in large bowl and gently toss, then sprinkle with the almonds. Or place the onions, peppers and almonds in small bowls for self-topping.
To make the dressing, just combine the ingredients in a jar with a tight lid and shake vigorously before pouring onto each serving of the salad.