|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 :)