18.8.11

A road trip involving lettuce


This is a story about the dangers of reading too much about gardening. It starts with a mad idea to do a road trip from where we live in southern Denmark through Germany to Alsace, France. This trip is mainly premised on cravings for warmer, sunnier weather and to sit at a cafe having delicious croissants and cafe au laits. All very good, if somewhat impractical, reasons. After many hours of driving, we find ourselves in Scherwiller, Alsace camping in a vineyard. On the Saturday we are told of a great local market at the nearby town of Selesat. The market is laid out simply in two rows facing each other. We start at one end and work our way up purchasing local goats cheese, yogurt, freshly picked wild blackberries, and eggs. I can see at the other end an elderly lady with small living lettuces in trays in front of her. And here is where too many gardening books comes in, I assume that she has in front of her a mesclun bed. A mesclun bed is a mixture of salad greens grown closely together and harvested as young leaves originally from France. I approach her thinking I will buy a bag of mixed salad leaves which she will harvest in front of my very eyes. Because, in my excitement of being in France at a French market, I completely assume she is selling French salad leaves from a French gardening technique. Although the sign in front of the leaves says, "12 pour 2Euro" which makes little sense if you are buying a bag of leaves, my husband goes ahead and tried to order some leaves. She is very agreeable and asks which of the types of lettuce we want. She starts selecting our choices and instead of cutting the leaves, puts the whole living lettuce in bag. She then gestures to the sign and indicates we have a lot more choosing to do to get up to 12. Oh no! We realize that we are in fact buying 12 starter plant size lettuces while on a camping holiday. We can't walk away, she's elderly, she's already put four lettuces together for us, we're too polite to do anything else but complete the transaction. And so we leave the French market with 12 lettuce starter plants all because I've read too many gardening books, and because I leapt to conclusions based on those books!

As a gardener though I can't throw out 12 lettuce plants so I tend to them. They have some soil around their roots, they are wrapped in some newspaper and then in a plastic bag. So, I water them, I place them in a sunny location while camping, I make sure they are brought either into the car or into the tent's vestibule at night so they don't get soaked by the nightly thunderstorms. And on the drive home, I carefully place them on the back of the car behind my son's head so they get light on the drive. At the camping spot on the drive home, I take them out of the car before anything else so that they get some fresh air and aren't damaged. I am sure that some of the people at these campsites are telling their friends about this strange lady who seemed to be coddling a yellow plastic bag. My son can't believe that on a camping trip, I managed to have a garden.

But they made it home and are now planted out on my terrace and we harvested some leaves last night for the salad. And they were delicious!


As an aside, we know driving 2500km is not great for the environment but we had an environmentally friendly car and there were three of us in it so it was better than flying but not taking the train or bus.

--- Jude


2 comments:

Elizabeth said...

What a great story, kinda hilarious but .... that is more than ok.

julochka said...

i so love this little tale...it has everything...a road trip, an amusing language barrier, food. all it's lacking is a bunch of people from the netherlands and their caravans. ;-)