Local Winter Greens Beyond Kale: Little Leaf Farms

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Many moons ago, when we were jobless, child-free, and lucky enough to scrounge up enough money to backpack around Europe for a little bit before stepping from childhood into the big leagues of university, jobs, and creating a self-sufficient (ish) live of our own, Dan and I had our first big fight.  We were in Italy having our umpteenth cone of gelato.  Dan asked if he could try mine, and of course I’m always one to share so I handed my cone over.  Dan had a lick of the gelato and then to my shock and horror bit off the pointy little bottom of my cone.  I looked at him in disbelief.  How was I supposed to eat my gelato now as it dripped through the bottom all over me as we strolled the streets.  I told him I didn’t want it back and we had a full blow argument in a peaceful, historic, Italian Piazza.  Since then, we’ve only had a handful of major fights, one in a cafĂ© in Montreal about the fallacy of the American Dream as an equal opportunity dream (this one was almost a deal breaker) and the most recent recurring one is about buying food from California.

I don’t have anything against California.  I hear its cities and landscapes are beautiful and diverse and filled with delicious food and talented chefs.  I do have something against buying Californian produce though, especially during our growing season, at my local super maket.  I grew up just North of here where there is the Niagara belt and some great farms and an extended growing season.  I know that’s way closer than California and I also know that Market Basket often has that Canadian produce.  I also now know, that I can find lettuce year-round, that is grown a stone’s throw (well if Clay Buchholz is tossing the stone) away in Devens, MA. I was recently invited to check out the operation at Little Leaf Farms and to join other bloggers for lunch.

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Born local, raised right is the name of the game at Little Leaf Farms.  It is an impressive operation brought to MA by a team with the experience of Backyard Farms behind them.  Little Leaf Farms grows a mix of greens.  There are a few things aside from travel time differentiates Little Leaf Farms from other bagged lettuce.

  • Many bagged lettuces are chopped lettuce leaves, but Little Leaf Farms cut the leaves whole from the root.  Little Leaf Farms grows their lettuce for 25 days. The result is a small leaf, larger and crisper than baby lettuce but younger and fresher than a fully grown head of lettuce.
  • No added gases in the bag.  When I open a typical store bought bag of lettuce, that is not grown locally, there is this weird smell that comes out.  To keep the lettuce fresh for their journey across the country, gases are added into the bag.  When you’re getting lettuce from down the road that isn’t necessary.
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  • Little Leaf Farms does a nice mix of greens.  They grow a green leaf lettuce, red chard, red leaf lettuce, and a delicious arugula.
  • The greenhouse in Devens, MA uses rainwater for their fertilization/irigation mix.  Not a drop of water is wasted.  They also use solar energy provided by the town and LED lights, which use 40% less electricity than typical lights.
  • It just tastes better.  The arugula is peppery and delicious without being overly sharp or bitter.  The green and red leaf lettuce are fresh and almost juicy.  The red chard is earthy and pretty with the dark green and red contrasting stripe.

At the moment Little Leaf Farms is available at many local grocery stores.  Their lettuce can also be found in your salads at soon-to-be-open Eataly Boston.  If you’d like to see them at a store near you (I’d love to see them at Pemberton Farms and Formaggio Kitchen,) just let them know.

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