Butter Lettuce with a Side of Dirt (52 New Foods, Week 26) July 04 2012, 3 Comments

Dirt (along with butter lettuce) is our new food of the week. It may be what we need to stay healthy.

A recent article in The New York Times on the merits of dirtying up our diets ignited a lively discussion at our dinner table. Could dirt help us ward off the germs that lead to the inevitable sniffles in the first weeks of school? Or reduce the itchy, watery eyes that plague our outdoor summer adventures? If what these researchers are arguing is true -- that a little dirt in our diets can improve our health by strengthening our immune systems and reducing allergies – then getting down and dirty might be a fun and inexpensive way to stay healthy.

Butter Lettuce


Digging Deeper

Before we decided to dig in, we needed to know, “What kind of dirt is good dirt?” Is dirt from our garden just as healthy as the dirt found lining the shelves of the grocery store? Certainly I had to provide some guidelines to my new food adventurers out of fear that they might throw all of their hygiene cares to the wind. Jeff Leach, science and archaeology writer and founder of the Human Food Project, offered this practical guidance:

No matter worrying about the soil in your local grocery store, as there is almost none (aside from the occasional potato and mushroom). Dirt from your local sources (yard, farmers’ market, etc) would be best. Importantly, the simple act of playing outside will expose our kiddos to a vast microbial community - so, from Angry Birds to Dirty Birds.”

With those simple rules as our guiding principles, we headed out to the garden to add a little dirt to our diet.

Butter Lettuce Wraps with Sunbutter

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 0 minutes
Makes about 12 wraps

Butter Lettuce with Sunbutter



1 head, garden grown butter lettuce
¼ cup, sunflower butter


1) Harvest your butter lettuce. Have fun getting your hands dirty!

Harvest the Butter Lettuce


2) Wash the lettuce thoroughly with water. Give your hands a good wash, too, with soap and water (don’t kill all the good bugs with super zapper hand sanitizer).

Wash the Butter Lettuce


We found a teensy chameleon critter, the same vibrant green as the butter lettuce, which we gingerly placed back in our garden.



3) Keeping the leaves intact, spread about a teaspoon of sunflower butter into each piece of lettuce.

Spread Sunbutter on the Butter Lettuce


4) Wrap and enjoy!

Enjoy Butter Lettuce


5) Then plant a new crop.

Plant a New Crop


Crunch a Color Kids Vote: Diggin’ it!

What we liked: Anything grown from our tiny kitchen garden seems to taste better. The kids thrilled at enjoying the lettuce they planted as seeds and grew into a nourishing meal. Harvesting the lettuce inspired us to plant another crop of new vegetables to try, and gave us the wonderful opportunity to spend more time outside, soaking up the beautiful sunshine and soil that makes us healthy. The experience even inspired our first family food challenge – more to come on that soon!    

* What will you plant in your garden this week?

* How do you dirty up your diet?

Lettuce is a super easy crop to grow. If you don’t have any growing in your garden right now, plant a few seeds and you’ll have a feast before the end of summer.

Craving more new recipes to try? Catch up on last week’s recipe: Healthy Zucchini Muffins.

About the author: Jennifer Tyler Lee is a mom of two children and the creator of Crunch a Color™ -- the award-winning game that makes healthy eating fun. Like most parents, she struggled to get her kids to eat healthy, balanced meals, so she decided to make it into a healthy eating game and she’s giving back to support non-profit children’s nutrition programs including Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and FoodCorps. Watch her picky eaters tell the story of how they turned into healthy eaters playing the game. Follow @crunchacolor on Facebook Twitter and Pinterest to tune into Crunch a Color's healthy eating adventure and Jennifer’s tips and kid-friendly, easy recipes.