Green-tastic Gathering: Yuma Lettuce Days

The February-fresh confab attracts salad-lovin' foodies.

NOT JUST A SIDE OR SALAD: While the entrees and main courses and centerpieces of our meals tend to take up much of the spotlight, every dine-outer should pause, now and then, to observe what sits near the edge of the plate. We speak of the garnish, of course, that frilly bit of vegetation that serves to provide an attractive framework to the food you ordered. It might be a sprig of parsley, or maybe a cherry tomato or two, or a pepper, but chances are good that some Romaine lettuce is playing the garnish role next to what you're eating. How often, though, do we love on lettuce beyond its salad-y ways, its hamburger-topping abilities, and, yes, its garnish-good talents?

The answer is more and more often, these days. Lettuce was widely considered the stuff of the salad bowl a few decades back, as well as healthy filler, but modern times have witnessed the rise and rise of the lovely, leafy good stuff. It's positively a star now, with tastings and recipes under its green belt, and full-on paeans written about its many pleasures. In short, it is no mere garnish, but the hearty and spicy and tangy and flavorful main-y parts of our plates, quite often. Yuma knows all about this, being a major lettuce capital, and the southeastern Arizona city pauses each February to love upon the fresh vegetation, in myriad ways.

YUMA LETTUCE DAYS... are set for Saturday, Feb. 27 and Sunday, Feb. 28 at the University of Arizona's Yuma Agriculture Center, and it shall be a chefly celebration, indeed. Chef Michael Cairns of the Omni Scottsdale Resort and Spa will be in the house, so prepare for informative demos that pull apart, and reconstruct, the notion of lettuce, much like we might pull apart some iceberg in our own kitchens (before reconstructing the snappy stuff into a salad). "Other activities planned for Yuma's homegrown celebration include other live cooking demonstrations and contests, a ginormous salad bar, and the Recipe Box tasting event on Saturday that showcases specialties from local restaurants, including beer and wine," say organizers.

"GINORMOUS SALAD BAR": If only every food festival on the planet, be it about chocolate or shrimp or anything, could have such a wondrous creation. And lettuce is the hearty heavy-lifter of the salad bars of the world, a player that goes well beyond a plate's garnish. Time to salute it, in its many yummy forms, over a bright-sky'd Yuma weekend this February.

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