What's new here at the Wild Lettuce Company? Well I'll tell you!
1. 20 Years!
2. Farming project
3. A note on Lactuca virosa altissima
4. Egyptian Lettuce Seed Oil back in stock
5. Classic Wild Lettuce Tincture back in stock
6. What to expect in 2023?
First I'd like to take a moment to thank everyone for their interest in our little company for all these years. It’s a hell of a lot of work, but things are coming along. Pretty much every sale goes right back into the pot to grow the company, and the lettuce.
Well guess what!? November 17th 2002, t'was the fateful day that I registered www.wildlettuce.com and began the long journey to actually do something with what was at the time an almost forgotten medicinal herb.
Back in those days I had just moved to Europe to sing opera. Somehow I had the sense, even whilst swimming in vast seas of Czech beer, that opera was not going to fill my coffers. I wanted to start a business to supplement my singing career.
In fact the lettuce did just that, providing me with enough money to get by in dribs and drabs and booms and busts. I harvested wild lettuce in the Czech countryside and made extracts in Prague. Everywhere I traveled in Europe to sing, I would bring a suitcase with prepackaged products to drop in the mail.
The pandemic was the final nail in the coffin as far as singing in Europe. I hung up my tuxedo and returned to the US to work on the lettuce. Ahhh the good ol' days.
And so, happy 20th anniversary to Wildlettuce.com! Though the days may come and go, you are my constant companion.
Fall planting -
The fall planting project went off without a hitch, except for the fact that it was a month of grueling and mind numbing work. This year I did it all by hand from transplants. I play guitar and already have a bit of tendinitis going on, this last month certainly did not help with that! I used a hand operated tool that involves dropping the plants down a tube and then squeezing two handles, which puts the plant in a nice little pocket in the ground.
Before planting, while the transplants were growing in the greenhouse, I tilled up the field with the trusty new Kioti tractor and then disced it so that it was all nice and level. Then I put down the drip lines to make sure there was plenty of water out there, as fall in South Carolina can be dry. Actually, this is why last year’s growing was a huge flop. Last year I planted seeds right before a drought. Waa waa waaaaa… We’ve been lucky though, as we’ve gotten plenty of rain. I really only needed irrigation for the first couple of weeks.
I planted about an acre of Lactuca virosa altissima. It took a month to get all of the plants into the ground and they are looking good. By spring 2023 we should have about an acre of the good stuff coming up.
A note on Lactuca virosa altissima -
It was about 1850 when the French pharmacist Pierre-Hector Aubergier settled on this variety of wild lettuce to grow industrially, after about ten years of experimentation. He determined that it was best because the size of the plant, and the quality and quantity of its lactucarium. Lactucarium is the milky juice which flows from the plant when bruised. This plant can get ten feet tall, and is medicinally excellent. It is said to have originated from the Caucasus Mountains.
In the summers of 2017 and 2018, I went to Aubergier's small village in France to research this history and to find if there happened to be any of Aubergier’s plants still growing 100 years later as weeds or in some vacant lot. Luckily I have a contact there who has the only known photograph of the spot. I'll detail this adventure at a later date, but luckily I found about thirty of these plants growing to this day!
Egyptian Lettuce Seed oil is NOW IN STOCK!
We've been out of stock of the oil for a couple of months, but now it's pressed and ready to go. We've been working with the same source in Egypt for more than a decade. The seeds are imported from Egypt, and there are always logistics to be hammered out along the way, and so for a few months we didn't have it in the shop. We've also got a new oil press which is much more efficient than the one we were using before.
The latest batch of Egyptian Lettuce Seed Oil is excellent. The new press is much more efficient and I think gets just about every bit of oil out of the seeds as possible. The oil is a tinge more on the golden side as well.
It can be found here: https://wildlettuce.com/shop/lettuce-seed-oil/
Classic tincture is also NOW IN STOCK!
This batch of classic tincture is made from fresh Lactuca virosa altissima. We did things a little differently this time, we didn't use the usual dried plant material. The plants were cut from our seed garden at the end of summer 2022, and went directly into the alcohol/water. This is the first taste of what is to come regarding our Aubergier variety of wild lettuce!
The latest batch of classic tincture has a certain darker amber color, almost ruby red, which distinguishes it from tinctures I've made from L. serriola. Virosa in general has a bolder flavor, if you ask me. This altissima variety has quite an interesting analgesic quality to it on the palate, which I think is captured nicely in the tincture.
Our Classic Wild Lettuce Tincture is about 5x concentrated and 37.5% alcohol. It can be found here: https://wildlettuce.com/shop/wild-lettuce-tincture/
What's to come in 2023?
Well, certainly there will be enough wild lettuce to harvest! The tea market sure needs a bit of help, so a portion of the harvest will go towards that. Another thing that must be done is to stabilize the classic tincture market. Most of the tincture out there is just crap. The quality varies widely from crappy to really crappy. I'd like to get these two critical aspects of the market, teas and tinctures, under control.
Many people have asked when we're going to have the H. Newman's Syrup of Lactucarium back in stock. This is one of those things that keeps getting pushed to the side. The classic formula that we had in the shop will come around now and again, but this year we will be putting something online that will be formulated more for the modern palate. The previous version is almost an exact replica of H. Aubergier's original syrup formula, and hence it tastes like something 150 years old. The new formula will have a bit broader of an appeal, as well will have a few extra ingredients to help clear the sinuses!
Don't forget that we still have our best selling product yet online! Extra Strong Tincture of Lactucarium can be found here: https://wildlettuce.com/shop/tincture-of-lactucarium/
Another thing that must be done is an overhaul on my labels. We will be shoring up our FDA labeling, as well as improving the overall graphic design.
There are some things as far as packaging that need a bit of help as well. I have kept packaging very simple because anything fancy that is added to the packaging adds possibly unnecessary costs to the final product. We’ve done everything we can to fight the problem of pricing and inflation. I will only raise the actual cost of a product as a last resort. Lately the only product that has gone up slightly in price is the oil, as it involves importation and rising shipping and other fees.
In the realm of packaging, there are some changes that can be made which shouldn’t add much to the cost of production. I'd like to make colorful, useful, and informative product inserts for starters.
I might be able to add some value to the customer by using individual product boxes, and switching to shipping bags which are lighter to ship. As far as packaging is concerned I have always gone no frills, and instead focused on the quality of the product and the label design. In the coming year I will try to add just a bit more to the overall packaging and design and offset this by lowering the shipping cost on my end. We'll see how it goes.
Vlogs, blogs, newsletters, and articles... Finally getting some content made is something I am really looking forward to in the new year. It seems like there is always something to be done by way of getting products made or growing the lettuce, or design, which takes up my time. This year I will make a big effort to share the research that I have done over the years, including all of the artifacts I have collected from the history of lactucarium!
In my studio I have a cabinet I’m calling the Lactuca Museum. This has all kinds of bottles and tins, and books, and products from the history of lactuca. I wish to show it all. This is something I will be working on when I get the new studio put together. At the moment I simply don’t have room to set up all of the video and lighting things for making these videos, but it is coming! Stay tuned…
Thank you for taking time to read this update! I hope to bring you new and interesting products and content in the year to come. I wish everyone a good holiday and happy new year!