Extreme heat causing produce to grow and taste different at Waco farm

Published: Jul. 18, 2022 at 8:37 AM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Waco Farms, a local produce farm, grows a variety of greens, but, this summer, the extreme heat is affecting one particular vegetable.

Constant extreme temperatures are causing the farm’s butter lettuce to “bolt.” This means the lettuce grows vertically instead of horizontally, causing it to taste bitter instead of sweet.

The farm’s electronic watering and shade systems are not enough to keep the produce at consistent temperatures.

“The last few summers have been much more mild, and so we still had the same issues, but much, much less,” Cary Chisholm, co-owner of Waco Farms, said. “This year, it’s just very difficult to manage that level of sunlight and heat and harvest the produce before we start to have issues.”

Waco Farms supplies butter lettuce to local HEB stores and restaurants.

This year, they must discard double the amount of butter lettuce than past summers to prevent customers from buying a bitter batch.

Because they can spot the vertical butter lettuce heads, they discard 20% of their butter lettuce. This is double than what they usually discard.

They do not sell the more bitter lettuce because they are known for their high-quality produce. The farm donates the discarded produce to a local animal farm.

“We’re not getting complaints that it’s bitter because we’re wasting what we would expect to be like that,” Chisholm said. “We’re doing our best to only provide our customers with what they expect.”

Chisholm plans to move production into an insulated metal building within the next few years so that he can keep the produce at consistent temperatures.

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