The Well-Traveled Lettuce

Although the intense swings from summer to winter that have posed as spring have me fairly convinced that the apocalypse is upon us, no, scratch that. BECAUSE the intense swings from summer to winter that have posed as spring have me COMPLETELY convinced that society  is teetering on the verge of collapse, I have renewed my commitment to learn how to grow my own food. As some of you may recall from last year, gardening is a challenge for me.

For one thing, plants apparently need sun or something, and my apartment doesn’t come with any. In college, a good friend gave me one of those plants with the broad, shiny leaves you get in the grocery store as a dorm-warming present. I named it Joseph. That thing survived seven and a half years of complete neglect, minimal sun, and occasional deadly encounters with cat teeth. I was convinced he was going to outlive me. Then we moved to this apartment. Joseph hung in like a trooper for as long as he could, but apparently even undead plant require either sunlight or water.

Rest in peace, Joseph

John got me an azalea plant for Valentine’s Day, and I was really torn. What I said was, “Oh, that’s so sweet. It’s lovely. Thank you for not buying me cut flowers, which I have ethical objections to unless they’re locally grown.” What I was thinking, however, was more like, “MURDERER! What did that poor plant ever do to you?” Sure enough, within days, it was on its way out. I didn’t even bother trying to rescue it. I mean, azaleas are meant to me planted, for one thing, and though John might have been trying to make a statement about the state of our apartment (hey, he knew when we got married that I don’t dust or wash floor unless the offending surfaces are dirty enough to make my feet black), there still isn’t enough dirt in here to plant a small bush in. John made a valiant attempt to rescue the azalea. He put it in the spot with the least indirect light and constructed a reflector from cardboard and tinfoil and proceeded to water the plant more than any plant in our household has ever been watered. In retrospect, that might have been part of the problem…

Azalea? Goner.

We did okay with a few of the shady herbs last year, in that we got sprouts, but the only herbs that grow well in shade are herbs I have never used before. The borage was pretty, but seriously–would you eat fuzzy leaves?  Intimated by the alien herbs, we never watered or thinned them, and they too died.

This year, things are going to be different. I have proof:

Well-Traveled LEttuce

This, my friends, is the most well-traveled lettuce you are likely to meet. These little seedlings have traveled approximately 2,000 miles, which is 500 miles further than the average head of lettuce travels from the farm to the family table. I believe they prove the exception to the rule that says the further food has traveled, the less nutritious it’s going to be, but only because I don’t believe it would be particularly smart for commercial enterprises to build gardens in their semis and then drive around letting people pick their lettuce from the back of the tractor-trailer truck.

In my case, however, it makes perfect sense. I mean, I’m not driving the plants around for their own sake. It’s not like I think the soothing rhythm of the road and the soothing excess of carbon dioxide is going to make them grow better. I happen to drive close to 2,000 miles in a typical month because my family is in Maine and my job is a split-shift nightmare half an hour away. My car, however, spends most of its time parked in gorgeously sunny parking lots and has a large amount of glass in its structure, making it, in essence, a magical mobile greenhouse. I say magical, because those greens that I thinned from my lettuce beds this afternoon are the first food I have produce since the two best tomatoes ever I managed to coax from a plant back in college.

I’m also growing tomatoes in my car. See?

The tomatoes are in the middle.

In other news, I’ve finally decided on a name for my car. Marjory. She’s a trash heap alright (more my fault than hers), but she’s reliable, and something good seems to be coming from her, so I think the name is fitting.


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