Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Friday, 25 July 2014

Salad Days: The Food Programme

Screen grab taken from the Food Programme page on the BBC website

Whilst I was away, Radio 4's Food Programme broadcast a very interesting programme on Salad Leaves. The appropriately named Dan Saladino revealed that:

  • The UK's demand for salad leaves is worth £600 million annually and demand is rising steadily for leaf production throughout the year
  • Many of the salad leaves we buy are imported from Spain, particularly during the winter months
  • Chlorine is still used extensively by some firms as part of the bagged salad process as spring water supplies aren't sufficient for what's needed
  • A new indoor growing facility in Essex is the size of 10 football pitches. This is set to grow to 20 football pitches to meet increasing UK demand and to compete against imported leaves
  • Soil cleansing is practised at the Essex facility to reduce pests and diseases (but also eliminates the beneficials) and fertilisers are added to the soil before each crop cycle
  • Rose bay willow herb is edible and is being considered for inclusion in salads - a great way to b(eat) your weeds ;)
  • There's a major salad producer right here in Wiltshire (as well as me!)

It's well worth a listen (NB link is to a MP3 download) - the programme should be available for at least another year.

The programme's website page is packed with interesting information, including some new varieties to try and tasty recipes. There's also a link to Dave Bez's blog Salad Pride - Dave has produced a different salad for his lunch every day for four years. His blog is worth a good, long look, especially if you're stuck for ideas for your next salad.

The programme confirms why I started The 52 Week Salad Challenge over two and a half years ago - it's far better (and cheaper) to grow our own! 

If you're looking to start, you don't need a lot of space - a couple of pots or a windowbox will do. It's a bit hot to start growing lettuces right now (germination is suppressed when daytime soil temperatures go above 75 degrees Fahrenheit*), but you can start by sowing some mizuna, various mustards, rocket, pak choi and kale instead.

* = however, if you have a cooler, shadier spot then it should be OK to go right ahead :)

16 comments:

  1. I heard that programme and found it mind-boggling. Also, vast amounts of bagged salad are just thrown away because they don't keep for long in the fridge. As you say, it really is easy to grow the leaves ourselves - and then pick exactly the amount needed for each meal!

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    1. Mind-boggling indeed. I've found that my home grown salad seems to last longer in the fridge than shop-bought. Have you (or IET) found similar results?

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  2. The Food Programme is consistently good, glad to hear they've covered the horror of bagged salads. I can't imagine how much packaging is involved in it all, apart from anything else. I'm off to check out the blog you recommend. Thanks for highlighting the programme.

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    1. Yes, CJ I didn't even mention other aspects such as the packaging involved. If anyone is looking to cut down their food bill in the most dramatic way and have more delicious food, then growing salad leaves is the answer.

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  3. Oh thanks for this!! So informative.

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    1. You're welcome Bren, good to see you again :)

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  4. That is a fascinating program, thanks for the link. I've been inspired by your Salad Challenge to grow as much of my salad makings as possible, although I've not joined in on your blog (sorry) and I don't necessarily eat salad every day. But I've managed to grow nearly all my salad greens since the beginning of the year and I continue to try to keep on growing them. Thanks for the inspiration.

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    1. Michelle - welcome! Thanks for getting in touch - it's great to know you've been inspired to try the challenge :)

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  5. Thanks for all these great links, Michelle. I missed the programme but will have a listen. I'd like to say home-grown lasts longer but I pick as needed, surely one of the benefits! David's salad website looks totally inspirational - I can see myself spending a lot of time reading there. The problem (with all meals) is to not get too repetitive so I'm in awe that he's managed to make a new salad every day for FOUR years!! It helps that the photos are gorgeous too. Wonderful introduction, thank you, thank you. C xx

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    1. My pleasure Caro, always pleased to pass on useful information :)

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  6. I had to look up Dan Saladino, because I couldn't believe that was his real name. Maybe I should change my name to Victoria Summerbedding?
    Seriously, it's really interesting information. I'm working my way through a tomato glut at the moment, but I'm planning to sow salad leaves in an old ceramic sink when I get a spare minute. I like being able to pick just as much as I need.

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    1. There's no need to change your name Victoria! A ley is a term for pasture, so Summerley is entirely appropriate :)

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    2. I'll never forget the lecturer's opening line in my final year at uni - "I'm now going to talk about a subject of interest to all students - good leys". The rest of the course has been forgotten entirely ;)

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  7. Oh thank you I missed this so will have to catch up as well as look at Dave's website. Somehow the thought of munching rosebay willow herb does not appeal. I came across this article in the i newspaper recently which you might find interesting :

    http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/from-peashoots-to-persian-cress-british-diners-are-sampling-ever-more-exotic-leaves-9550384.html

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