Nobody Told Me About Bolting


Penne with Spinach or ChardMom never grew lettuce or spinach. My parents had a large garden, but neither was a fan of cooked greens, and lettuce other than iceberg was a foreign idea in our neck of the Tualatin Valley. And so, late in life, I finally have a sunny spot to have a container garden or raised beds. My first purchase was a pre-planted salad and herb bowl from Shorty’s Garden and Home in Vancouver. I was so tickled at being able to pick my own salad that I bought more lettuce and spinach starts and planted them in containers. Things went well through May. I plucked tender greens from my plants every other evening for our salad. But in early June, the spinach suddenly put out arrowhead-shaped leaves and sprang up in height. I am currently listening to Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.) by Barbara Kingsolver and discovered this was bolting. When lettuce and spinach sense a higher temperature, they start sending up a bloom. When they do this, their leaves turn bitter as they make themselves less tasty to grazers like me. While it’s possible to quickly trim them back and keep the good-tasting leaves coming, often you just have to sprout new plants instead. I finally pulled up the spinach and used the remaining leaves in a batch of Penne with Spinach, Red Peppers and Feta. I also am growing my own red pepper plant, so eventually I can roast and freeze my own peppers for this dish. And I’ve ordered a home cheese making kit so I can replace the feta with fresh mozzarella. As for the container garden, I’ve replaced the spinach with some Swiss Chard starts I found at Shorty’s. And I’ve got seeds for a non-bolting spinach and mixed lettuce.

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