In the past I have extolled the benefits of growing your own (gyo) lettuce, but now I’m even more convinced that if you want to eat the stuff (and I’m not saying that you should) it’s a great idea to grow it yourself. I read a piece in the Washington Post today outlining some reasons NOT to eat lettuce (and other components of salad), but to me they are just reasons not to eat commercially produced lettuce:
- It occupies land that could be used for more nutritious crops.
But if you gyo, it takes up hardly any space – grow cut-and-come-again varieties in progression in containers and you can have fresh salad leaves from spring to autumn (or longer)
- Weight-for-weight it has little nutritional value compared to other vegetables because it contains so much water.
No matter if you gyo, you will be getting fresh green stuff on your plate whatever space you have… it’s a challenge to grow broccoli in a windowbox, but no problem to grow lettuce.
- All that water makes it delicate to transport, requiring refrigeration and packaging.
So transport it a few metres from your garden/balcony/windowsill to your plate and there’s no need for packaging or any special treatment.
- All that water makes it expensive to transport (calorie per calorie) relative to other vegetables and uses relatively more fossil fuels.
- Salad is the top source of vegetable food waste, apparently accounting for 1 billion pounds (weight) of waste globally each year*.
Again – gyo, pick what you need and nothing goes to waste except that which keeps growing and photosynthesising and can eventually be composted to turn into more lettuce next year.
- Green leaf vegetables (of which lettuce is one) accounted for 22 percent of all food-borne illnesses in 1998 to 2008*.
Freshly picked leaves washed and served straight away will have had little chance to pick up many nasties and certainly won’t be covered in chemicals to make them last longer or ensure that they don’t have bugs on them. If you gyo, you know where they’ve come from and what they’ve been in contact with. Yes, soil contains all sorts of pathogens, so make sure you wash your salad leaves.
On top of all these things, having started, it’s now impossible in our garden not to grow things that go in salads (although not necessarily lettuce):
* According to the article in the Washington Post, although the link to the source of this figure did not work, so we’ll have to take them on trust on this!
** Again this is from the Washington Post article and although the link did work it just took me to the Centers for Disease Control web site and I couldn’t be bothered to search for the actual page that would confirm this figure.