Yesterday I was doing the normal rounds around the garden to collect salad greens for dinner (I still love saying that) and I chopped the top off one of the more mature lettuce heads, causing the milky-white lettuce sap to rush to the wound. What made this particular moment different than most, however, is that in an instant my finger was dabbed into this mystery liquid and onto my tongue. Trauma ensued. It was gross. A horrible, bitter mess that lingered on my tongue way longer than necessary for me to get the point.
This white, gross, crap is called lactucarium and actually is kind of interesting. Historically it has been used as a substitute opium and for medicinal purposes, although recent studies seem to suggest that it probably isn’t very effective for either. It coagulates upon exposure to air (such as, for example, when a hippie cuts a chunk off her lettuce plant for dinner), which makes it technically a latex. The primary purpose of lactucarium appears to be keeping hippies and herbivores from eating it. Mission, accomplished, my dear lettuce.