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[Editor’s note: this lettuce variety is on the Slow Food USA Ark of Taste (we list is as Speckled lettuce).]

by RAFT Grow-out Coordinator Anne Obelnicki

Isn’t it funny the unexpected complications that sometimes arise when you start something new?

This is Chefs Collaborative’s pilot year with the Sixteen intriguing heirloom varieties of vegetables, all with historical ties to New England, were chosen and “grown-out” by farmers in our three pilot areas for local chefs to buy and celebrate on their menus. The first variety to come in, which we’ve had for a few months now, was Forellenschuss lettuce.

Forellenschuss is German for “trout, self-enclosing,” which refers to its speckled nature (like a trout) – in this case green with rusty red speckles, and the type of head shape it has, which is romaine type. The lettuce was grown in both Holland and Austria in the 1600’s, then it traveled through Germany (hence it’s nifty name), then Canada, to arrive in the US in the late 1700s. It has been grown in New England and around the U.S. ever since. It is routinely referred to as one of the tastiest and most popular backyard heirloom lettuces.

So what’s this complication I alluded to, you might ask? Well, it’s those lovely speckles. In the age of generic romaine and iceberg, there are apparently a lot of folks who just can’t wrap their minds around the idea that their lettuce is supposed to be speckled. They take one look at that lovely trout-like pattern and immediately call up associations with something they left in the back of the fridge for too long. That’s right; they think it’s rotten, or diseased.