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Fenberg lettuce grows in an upright fashion, like most romaine varieties, with an overall vase-like shape. The dense, uniformly shaped heads grow anywhere from 16 to 20 centimeters in height and 22 to 24 centimeters in width. Fenberg lettuce has thick, glossy, medium-green leaves with serrated margins and the inner leaves are a blanched, pale color. The leaves are crisp and offer crunchy texture. Fenberg lettuce does have some of the same bitter characteristics of romaine, but also has a sweetness that makes it unique to the cultivar.
Fenberg lettuce is available in the fall months and can be grown year-round in warmer climates.
Fenberg lettuce is a novelty variety of romaine, or Lactuca sativa var. longifolia, as it is known botanically. Fenberg lettuce is adaptable to many climates, which appeals to large and small farmers nationwide. It is also resistant to different diseases that often plague lettuces and is tolerant to a calcium deficiency called tip-burn, which makes the tips of the inner leaves brown. Fenberg lettuce is sometimes referred to as a ‘mini romaine’ variety. There are two seed companies currently (ca. 2016-2017) taking credit for the creation of the Fenberg romaine variety, meanwhile, the researchers at Specialty Produce are still investigating its true origin.
Fenberg lettuce, like other romaine-type lettuces, is nutrient rich and full of essential amino acids. Fenberg lettuce contains fiber, vitamins A, K, C and B-complex as well as the minerals potassium, iron, and manganese. The small romaine variety has 18 essential amino acids. Fenberg lettuce has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and immune-boosting properties.
Fenberg lettuce can be used as whole leaves or chopped for salads or green beds for display. The nutrient dense Fenberg lettuce is a good addition to any mixed green salad. The short leaves are ideal for chopping for traditional Caesar salads, or for using whole as a lettuce “cup” for filling or dip. Store unwashed Fenberg lettuce in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week. Avoid freezing the lettuce, it will damage the leaves.
Fenberg lettuce is showing up on the menus at trendy restaurants in the southeastern United States. Paired with ducks and butternut squash, and a chile lime molasses vinaigrette, Fenberg lettuce is the base for a salad at Raleigh, North Carolina’s Second Empire Restaurant. Fenberg lettuce is also among the four types of lettuces planted at a community farm near Nashville, Tennessee that grows food for the Second Harvest Food Bank in Nashville.
Fenberg lettuce has its origins in the United States. In trials, Fenberg lettuce was one of the last to bolt after more than 76 days in the field, which makes it an attractive variety for busy farms. Romaine lettuce can trace its origins in ancient Egypt. It was likely descended from an oilseed lettuce type, and is considered to be the oldest cultivated lettuce variety. From Egypt, romaine spread around the Mediterranean region into the Middle East and then beyond to China. The variety first came to the New World with Columbus’s second voyage at the end of the 15th century. At one time in the 21st century, romaine was the most commonly grown lettuce variety in its region of origin. Romaine also goes by the name ‘cos’ which may point to the island of Kos in Greece (located north of Egypt in the Mediterranean Sea), one of the many places this variety of lettuce may have first been encountered by the Romans. The Roman use of the lettuce led to its being associated with the Romans, which is where we get the common name “romaine.”