Tuesday, July 23, 2013

From Romaine With Love

A week or two ago, MG Pat Lynch sent out this photo of an interloper in her salad garden:

photo by Sam Korper
Since it looked so much like the rest of the Romaine lettuce it was growing with, she wondered whether it was a weed or a mutant form of lettuce.  Well, sort of both: Jon Traunfeld identified it as Lactuca serriola, prickly or wild lettuce, which is a cousin of garden lettuce and a common weed that usually gets pulled out when it gets tall and goes to flower, but in its early stages can hide pretty successfully among similar plants.  It's bitter-tasting but edible, if you can put up with your mouth being pricked by the spines along the midrib.

A mystery quickly solved, but it kept making me think about masquerades and espionage for some reason.  And then this happened.  I'm very very sorry.

Quantum of Lettuce

He strolled in, cool as a cucumber and perfectly disguised to infiltrate the party at the Salad Box.  "Martini, one radish, shaken not stirred," he told the bartender, and glanced around for his quarry.  Black-Seeded Simpson, they called him; he'd likely be shadowed by his bodyguard, the Iceberg.

Collecting his drink, he scouted around the club full of Romainians, half losing money at Radicchio and half enjoying a dinner of speckled trout and deer's tongue.  Dodging a couple of drunken women, he came face to face with a lovely lady in a ruffled red dress.

"Lollo Rossa," she introduced herself with a flirtatious smile.  "And you… you don't belong here."

"Why do you say that?" he asked, gesturing at his perfectly tailored suit.

She leaned closer.  "Your spines," she murmured.  "You may hide them from the others, but I can see through your camouflage.  Or do you prefer to call them prickles?  Spikes?  Thorns?"

"I take after a porcupine, Miss Rossa," he said, and added when she lifted an eyebrow: "License to quill."

I'd better not mention, after that, the soporific properties of prickly lettuce, and the latex that oozes from its broken stem.  But here's a closeup photo of the spines:

also by Sam K.
Wear gloves for this one.  Unless you thrive on danger.

Here are some other ways prickly lettuce can disguise itself.


  1. *dies, possibly of surfeit of lettuce*
    Is speckled trout also a lettuce? *goes away to google* Apparently so. Though the latex and quills and soporific makes me suspect that this is not Bond Lettuce but actually a superhero story: bland mild-mannered salad by day, LettuceMan by night.

    1. Spreading his green cape and soaring among the skyscrapers, and... squirting milky liquid at villains. Yup.


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