Kids Club Vol. 43: Lettuce
Welcome to the latest issue of our ChopChop Kids Club newsletter!
This month, as the weather grows warmer, we’re thinking about salad and, more specifically, one of the coolest plants around: lettuce. You might not think about lettuce very much. I mean, it’s leafy and green. What else is there to know? A lot, it turns out! Different kinds of lettuce bring different qualities to your salad bowl. Iceberg is pale and very crisp; romaine is crunchy and robust; Bibb or Boston lettuce is soft and tender. Try different kinds to see which ones you like best. Inside this newsletter you’ll find basic salad recipes and skills, along with fun facts, a taste test, and a salad-themed gardening activity.
Bring on summer!
INSIDE THIS ISSUE
Green Salad With Your Own Dressing
Green Salad with Your Own Dressing
- Cutting board
- Sharp knife (adult needed)
- Measuring cup
- Vegetable peeler (adult needed)
- Salad bowl
- Salad servers or tongs
- 1 head romaine lettuce, washed, dried, and cut or torn into bite-size pieces
- 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 cucumber, peeled, if you like, and diced
- 1⁄4 cup Your Own Salad Dressing
- Put all the ingredients into the bowl and toss. Taste a piece of lettuce. Does it need more dressing? If so, add more and toss again. Serve right away.
Your Own Salad Dressing
Making a vinaigrette from scratch is like a magic trick: Put oil, vinegar, and some seasonings into a jar, shake it, pour it on your salad, and you’ll never buy the bottled stuff again! But how do you know how much oil and vinegar to add? And which kind? It’s just a matter of taste.
Start by finding your favorite oil (we like olive oil for most salad dressing) and your favorite vinegar (consider red or white wine, balsamic, rice, or whatever kind you like best). Also grab some salt, some mustard (we like Dijon for this), some clean lettuce, and a jar with a tight-fitting lid.
The classic ratio of oil to vinegar is 2:1 or 3:1. That means you use twice as much—or three times as much—oil as you use vinegar. (If you started with 1 tablespoon of vinegar, how much oil would you use for the 2:1 ratio? How about for the 3:1 ratio?)
Start with a 1:1 ratio. That means equal parts oil and vinegar. Measure 1 tablespoon oil into the jar, then 1 tablespoon vinegar. Add a pinch of salt and a tiny spoonful of mustard; screw on the lid and shake, shake, shake until the dressing looks creamy and blended.
Now taste it on a leaf of lettuce. How is it? It might taste just right—and you’ve found your perfect balance already!
If it’s too sharp—too sour or vinegary—add another tablespoon of oil. This is now a 2:1 oil-to-vinegar ratio. Shake and taste again. Does it need more salt? More mustard? Keep tinkering until you find the way it tastes best to you, then be sure to write down your formula!
You can also add minced garlic or garlic powder, fresh or dried herbs, black pepper, and other spices to the dressing. Try different combinations to see what you like best
Greens get their color from chlorophyll, a pigment that plants use to turn sunlight into food through the process of photosynthesis
Buy a package of mixed baby salad greens, often called “spring mix,” and pull out each different kind of leaf you see. See if you can identify them in the photos, or look them up online.
Now take a few minutes to learn what each leaf tastes like.
Is the leaf sweet? Spicy? Bitter? Tangy? Is it mild or strong? Do you like it?
- What are your favorites?
- What is your least favorite?
- Close your eyes and ask a friend or family member to give you one of the leaves to taste. Can you guess which one it is?
Lettuce By The Numbers
- The world’s largest Caesar salad weighed 7,246 pounds! It was prepared in Tijuana, Mexico, in 2007, and it contained 5,595 pounds of lettuce! (And 150 pounds of croutons.)
- Lettuce was grown as early as 2680 BCE by the ancient Egyptians, who first cultivated it for its seeds, which they used for oil.
- After you plant a lettuce seed, it takes 65 to 130 days for the lettuce to be ready for harvesting.
Dig This: Grow Your Own Salad
You don’t need a garden to grow greens! You can grow them in a sunny spot indoors—right in the container you bought your last salad greens in (or any other container).
WHAT YOU NEED
1 empty plastic clamshell container (the kind with a lid)
Extra clamshell container lid
Craft knife or box cutter (adult needed)
Potting soil (look for something called “starter mix”)
1 package lettuce, arugula, or mixed greens seeds
1. Use the knife to cut 3 or 4 X-shaped drainage slits into the bottom of your container (This is a good job for an adult). Turn the extra lid upside down and place the container on top of it.
2. Fill the container halfway with soil, then smooth the top layer of soil without packing it down.
3. Scatter the seeds evenly across the surface of the soil, then sprinkle with more soil, just covering the seeds with a very thin layer.
4. Use the spray bottle to moisten the soil and seeds evenly. Cover with the lid, which will create a warm, moist greenhouse environment, and put the container with the extra lid beneath it in a sunny spot. (If you have a south-facing window, that windowsill is ideal.)
5. Fill the extra lid with water. The soil will pull up the moisture the plants need. Check the water level every day, and refill when it looks low.
6. The seeds will sprout in about a week, and the first greens will be ready to cut when they’re at least 3 inches high, in 3 to 4 weeks (uncover the container when the sprouts reach the lid). To harvest, cut them with scissors, leaving about an inch of greens behind, and they will grow back to make one more salad harvest for you!