After months of serious deliberations, I have decided to put my reputation on the line and get something off my chest, consequences be dadgummited.

Lettuce: the new sleep med

Andy Nelson
Markets Editor

Here goes: It’s a good thing, not a bad thing, that fresh fruits and vegetables are available year-round in a variety of colors, tastes, shapes, smells, textures and nutritional profiles unimaginable to our parents, much less grandparents.

There it is. I know it’s controversial. I will now take cover and wait for return fire from Michael Pollan, Mrs. Obama, maybe a few of my old friends from San Francisco and anyone else who’s drunk the “locally grown” and “organic” Kool-aid.

Don’t worry. I’m not going to waste more ink on Mr. Pollan, the scourge of nonlocal, unorganic food â€” that is, 98% or so of all food â€” who’s already gotten far more than he deserves.

This is a feel-good story. It’s something that both Mr. Pollan and Mr. 365-day-a-year fresh produce supplier can agree on.

The topic is lettuce â€” “wild” lettuce, the most organic-y of the organic, lettuce that hasn’t been abused in unseemly factory farm conditions in the Salinas Valley, conditions Mr. Pollan might relish describing in apocalyptic terms normally reserved for early 20th century Chicago slaughterhouses.

The topic is wild lettuce â€” and childcare.

My sister-in-law, Jennifer, lives with her husband, Miguel, and their son, Max, in Mexico City. While he is extraordinarily handsome and charming, Max, soon to be 1, has not, alas, been the best of sleepers. Getting four hours at a stretch out of him is counted as a miracle in their household.

Enter the magic wild lettuce. According to Mexican domestic folk wisdom, putting wild lettuce leaves in the bathtub with a crabby, insomniacal or otherwise vexed niño can have a calming effect (on the niño, not the lettuce).

So, Jenn and Miguel decided, what the heck. We’ve tried everything else. Why not?

In went the lettuce, in went Max, there he sat and splashed (I’m picturing that Bugs Bunny cartoon, the one where an oblivious Bugs sings and scrubs himself in a boiling pot of veggies) and…Dios mio! He was cured!

Well, maybe not fully cured, but he is sleeping better, and his parents are beginning to resemble normally-functioning human beings again.

My father-in-law did some digging and came up with some evidence to back up the folk wisdom. Wild lettuce, he discovered, has been used as a kind of tranquilizer to ease hyperactivity, insomnia, chronic pain and other maladies.

It also has been known to induce visions and trance states, so when Max becomes verbal, we’ll have to ask if he remembers seeing any tie-dyed dolphins or polka-dotted whales swimming in the bath with him.

Baby-calming super-organic wild lettuce: it’s something we can all agree on, the sensible among us as well as those who would have us eating Farmer Brown’s home-canned organic peaches â€” and maybe pickled wild lettuce â€” all winter long.


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