When we visited my mom recently, we were making chicken burritos to serve with the batch of salsa we had just whipped up. Mom was scavenging through the refrigerator to find cheese, sour cream etc. She reached into the crisper drawer and said: I dont know if this is any good. Its three weeks old.?
What she had pulled out was a plastic, clamshell container filled with lettuce. The label read: Absolutely fresh because its still alive.?
Theres water and a little soil in a slot at the bottom of the container and the lettuce stays alive, rather than being lopped off by machinery and starting its rapid decay.
I questioned mom as to how much this lettuce cost. I figured it must have been pretty expensive because she wouldnt answer me. She said: I bought it because I thought it would be fun.?
My mind wandered to those commercials where the cartoon tomato is talking to the lettuce, and everyone is crying because of the onion.
I called Safeway on East Avenue and the nice guy in produce said the butter leaf lettuce called Live Gourmet,? sells for $2.99 a head. They have a Web site at www.livegourmet.com.?
Vince Choate, director of marketing at Hollandia Produce in Carpinteria, said the lettuce is grown with hydroponics. This is the system of growing plants in water and a nutrient solution without soil. Its done with grow-lights, similar to those often used for illegal indoor gardens.
The company germinates the seed in peat moss and once it sets leaves they nurture it for a while before putting it in the nutrient growing system, Vince said.
The root ball is kept in tact when the lettuce is harvested, to slowly deliver carbohydrates to the living lettuce in your crisper drawer.
The company markets the lettuce as being able to live for 15 days in the fridge.
The product fits well for people who live alone and dont go through lettuce that quickly. Vince said hes also heard people like it to take just a few leaves at a time to make sandwiches.
The plant will not continue to grow after part of it is plucked, because the plants are mature when harvested.
Hollandias sister company, North Shore Greenhouses, Inc., produces a product called Living Herbs, which can actually be planted in the ground.
Other living foods
My mother has a lot of stuff.
To say my mother has a lot of stuff is like saying prices are a little expensive at Saks Fifth Avenue.
Typically when I visit, there is an exchange of a few bags of stuff she thinks I just couldnt live without.
Over the years I have trained her that she cant just dump bags of stuff on my front porch when Im not home.
Among the treasure trove this time was one of those seed sprouting kits with five plastic trays in which to grow alfalfa sprouts, mung beans, salad mix and broccoli sprouts.
I figured Id use it once, likely like she did, and then dump it on my sisters doorstep one day when she isnt home.
The 9-year-old and I made the seeds one of our projects for the one night a week we hang out while his mom is at night class.
He seemed a bit bored with the process. The plastic trays didnt fit together that well, and the place where the water was supposed to run from one tray to the next on the tower constantly got clogged by seeds.
Yet, we persevered.
You soak the seeds overnight and then let out the water. Then, the seeds need to be rinsed three times a day.
You can also do this with a mason jar and some cheese cloth on top.
This is a high maintenance project, but it was fun to have Leif come over every few days and check on the seed progress.
He even agreed that the alfalfa sprouts are tasty.
After one good crop we used in cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches, however, the seeds started to get slimy and smelly.
I think it must have been the novelty had worn out and I neglected to rinse them three times a day.