For six seasons we have fought against an admirable foe no bigger than the tip of a pin. After six long seasons of battling we have lost, and for now, we have pulled up a white flag. But as we have faced this defeat we've also learned to love bitten arugula.
Arugula, one of the most well loved salad bowl components of the mustard family is a tried and true food group favorite of the wiley flee beetle. Around these parts, it is pretty hard to separate the beetle from the brassica. Flea beetles do especially well in Canola Country which Edmonton finds itself smack dab in the middle of.
Every year Arugula is one of the earliest seeds we put in the ground, and every year it gets totally annihilated by the beetle by mid May. But you know what? As we mix a generous portion of riddled well rinsed leaves into the mix each week, it adds a wild attacked look to our hyperlocal salad mix and, it tastes better for the addition of that wild leaf.
For the first few years as we wrestled with the "damage" from the beetle I was ashamed. We came up with marketing ploys like "twice bitten" or we priced with deep discounts thinking for some reason we should take a loss because we couldn't spray or manage our pest populations correctly. We debated endlessly with chefs who claimed they couldn't sell a salad if it had leaves in it that looked the way our arugula did. And in dark fits of desperation, we spent late nights and early mornings trying to figure out how to smuggle pyganic certified organic beetle killer from the United States. We never figured it out.
But, as we continued to drag our inferior looking product to our farmers markets customers, our customers helped us realize something.
There is nothing more visible in a bowl of lettuce than a shot-holed leaf of Arugula. But when anyone, and I seriously mean anyone, took three seconds to look past the holes and tasted a Lactuca field grown leaf of Arugula, full of holes in all its unsightly glory, an absolute truth emerged.
I've seen it instantly in people's eyes and heard it in their voices. They connect with real Arugula in a completely visceral way. I refuse to define it. In that moment I've seen the deception dissolve. True field grown arugula doesn't need a fancy slogan or even an unbitten leaf, it just needs to hit the taste buds.
The dupe that is revealed is not that a small scale urban farm shouldn't be pushing a shotholed arugula as an equivalent leaf to the status quo. The dupe that is revealed is that an entire industrial chain has pulled a stunt on the everyday consumer. That they have convinced most shoppers that perfect arugula should be untouched by hungry nature, twenty one days old, slightly yellowed, mostly dehydrated and without the mildest kick. In that moment, the taste buds call bull shit.
I've seen the look of understanding a hundred times over the last few seasons. As a result of that moment we now have countless customers that come back every week to enjoy another 100 grams of the good stuff. To each of you that has had that moment while standing at our table. I say thank you. That moment of clarity reconfirms to us what Lactuca is about.
Travis and the Gang at Lactuca