Let us grow lettuce

These were planted a couple of weeks ago in a planter measuring 40cm x 60cm

These were planted a couple of weeks ago in a planter measuring 40cm x 60cm

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:

  1. 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)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. All that water makes it expensive to transport (calorie per calorie) relative to other vegetables and uses relatively more fossil fuels.
    See 4.
  5. 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.
  6. 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):

Growing like weeds... Calendula (petals look very pretty in salad) and Blood-veined sorrel (yum)

Growing like weeds… Calendula (petals look very pretty in salad) and Blood-veined sorrel (yum)


* 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.

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  1. Well, I won’t be popular around the Washington Post, I guess, but oh, well . . .
    I think that article is a good example of what happens when city people intellectualize about something. Drives me crazy!!

    From what I have studied over the years, eating lettuce, celery and carrots (sometimes raw, sometimes cooked, all of them) boosts our immune systems greatly. I won’t be giving them up any time soon, although I did get away from my regular practise for some time and am now dealing with the results. But back on track and all that . . .

    My sons’ Dad and I worked for a couple in the Okanagan for most of a summer and autumn. The man had ideas like this, so he wouldn’t let me feed the rabbits any fresh greens, as they were “90% water anyway”. His rabbits were in very poor health and not one baby survived for months (as is usual with unwell does, they ate their babies (as is usual with unwell does, they killed their babies at birth). Then I began giving them greens (not lettuce, it’s actually harmful to rabbits) every day. In a few weeks we had thriving litters!

    So people need to come to terms with the fact that we know little about nature and how things work and stop trying to apply manufactured roles top-down. Look where that’s gotten us in only a couple of centuries . . . We need to repent (literally ‘re-think’) and begin observing and learning from nature,

    There is a reason why the Norwegian government has a philosopher as one of its members; that person;s job is to ask the right questions. And we need to begin studying philosophy ourselves and learn to ask the right questions ourselves. Questions like:
    why would we do that?
    What will happen if we do that?
    Who will be affected and in what ways?
    can what we do be reversed easily if it turns out to be harmful?

    Most of all, I think we need to learn to cARE, for ourselves, for each other, for the earth.

    Then we would not only have a chance at survival, we might actually deserve to do so.

    I hope this is not too much, Ms. Snail, but you did ask . . . 🙂

    Also, one last thing: most of the contamination on greens comes from using contaminated water to wash them and from unsanitary practices on the factory farms and in the packaging plants. Both easily remedied by growing your own and following reasonable sanitary practises in your garden and home. Which I’m sure your readers do anyway.

    Have a lovely week, Ms. Snail, and thanks for this post. Made me think, as you can see/
    ~ Linne

  2. Yeah, I take “experts opinion” lightly these days. If I want to grow lettuce, I grow it. Who cares if it doesn’t have a lot of nutrients. It’s the bomb in salads and to add flavour and texture to just about every summer dish. It also grows easily, sets seed easily and is fun to grow and is gorgeous when it goes to seed. Lettuce has earned a place in my garden. If I listened to experts opinion, I would have to remove myself from the garden because I have very little nutritional value, I am tetchy and difficult to tend, I NEVER grow where I am supposed to grow and I have gone to seed magnificently 😉

  3. We gyo lettuce because it tastes good. I rest my case!

  4. Ann Laken

     /  August 24, 2015

    I think the reporter needs to go get a life….

  5. Articles like the one you cite are the true indicators of the insanity pervading the world of food. Linne’s point about unsanitary food handling practises being to blame for ‘lettuce poisoning’ not the lettuce itself. It’s kind of like, if my dog gets fleas do I shoot my dog?

    Also – and I have to make this point – good dietary habits are NOT calorie based. This wrong thinking goes with the ‘food pyramid’ the ‘fat is bad’ and ‘prepared foods are good’ mantras that began the whole diabolical downward slide…………. I’m still growing my own lettuce and eating it too.

    • I’m guessing the author of the article has never tasted any lettuce other than iceberg, so doesn’t appreciate the range of flavours and textures. Salad leaves are a component of many of my favourite meals… especially when picked fresh from the garden…

  6. nettyg

     /  August 24, 2015

    A grown by me lettuce eater here….at the beginning of winter I made a lovely balcony pot of mixed varieties, grown from seedlings from the organic nursery in town, and I’m still cutting and eating. There’s madness afoot in the world. And had to laugh at myself, i saw your *gyo* at the very beginning and thought hmmm, that must be a new variety, we don’t have that here…then worked it out a couple of paras in 🙂

  7. Living in one of the few climates where lettuce doesn’t do so well, I’m salivating slightly at your cut and come again greenery. It’s too hot here, and I find the poor things bolt almost as soon as they poke their little heads out of the soil. But I do grow both Ceylon and Brazilian spinach, both of which are tropical varieties, love the heat and humidity, will tolerate constant haircuts and are packed with nutrients. The argument about being mostly water is very bogus: so are tomatoes, but that’s never given as a reason not to eat them!

  8. Another weird, crabby Post article. Like the ones complaining about the horrible fattening food at State Fairs, which happen once a year and cause almost everyone to walk at least ten miles. Pay no attention! Grow your own food!

    • I’d be interested to know about the different newspapers in the US. Here in the UK I know the sort of thing that each media outlet comes up with, but I have no feel for those in America. Not that I pay much attention to them anyway!

      • The Post is moderate to liberal on most politics, as is the NYTimes. Wall St Journal is a bit like the Financial Times–excellent reporting but an editorial page that can leave you gasping. I like to cross political lines in reading so I can put things together rationally. There is no national news mag in the US like the Economist, with good global reporting and no weird celebrity articles, so I take that. It seems to have become less Tory in the past 15 years and more moderate. So, I read different things, including the Guardian and a few European newspapers over the course of a week. Very different things written about in all of them–different focus as well as different spin. It’s fascinating.

  9. Heh, I read that article and thought exactly the same thing! All those issues are irrelevant when you GYO salads. And yes, don’t they just grow themselves? I recently got to peek over the fence into my old garden, and after almost 2 years of neglect its still crammed full of self-sowing edibles like chard, sprouting broccoli, leaf lettuce, red winter kale, calendula, borage, rocket and oodles of parsley. Oh, that rhubarb is practically a shrub now – silly new tenants have no idea they’re sitting on a food pile (and they’re apparently vegetarians too, which makes it all the sadder).

    I anticipate the day I have a sunny spot to grow food in again. 🙂

    • Oh, what a resource they are missing out on. I guess you won’t have your own garden again until you finish your studies and maybe not even then if you are off on your travels again

  10. I grow lettuce every year. I love going out to pick my salad right before I make it. This year I planted it in a planter box instead of the garden bed and it seemed to keep it from getting too leggy too soon.

  11. What a delicious post, part from the lettuce factor.. loved your thoughts and then the comments which are as entertaining and informative and fun as the post…. which seems to me probably makes the perfect blog the perfect blog.

  12. I guess the Post ran out of really interesting things to write about and had to “dig deep” for a story. Lettuce is mostly water but so are eggs, We need water anyway we can get it in our diets. It also has fiber which we need. Nutrition is only part of our needs. Something to wash down that nutrition is always a good thing. I think the Post just had a bad gum flapping day. I’m trying my hand at window box GYO lettuce. It’s still alive but not well established yet. Maybe next summer I’ll have better luck but I won’t quit trying. 🙂


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