Ed’s news: No such thing as too much salad

Guy is on holiday at the moment, returning next week. In his absence, here’s the latest news from green-fingered grower Ed Scott, who takes care of the polytunnels on our Devon farm. Tomatoes, cucumbers and more await in summer; for now, it’s all about leaves…

The salad leaves we grow in the winter are a bit of a godsend: we can maximise use of our polytunnels, which always look a little sad when empty, and keep our harvest teams busy in the colder months when there’s not a lot else going on. Another benefit is that oversupply is never an issue. A glut of courgettes in summer is a problem: there are only so many times we can put them in the
boxes before customers start crying foul. An excess of winter salad, however, is always welcome; most people are happy to see a bit of leafy greenery alongside the heavier winter staples of potatoes and swede. Every extra bag we can produce is also one less lettuce that has to be brought in from Europe, reducing food miles, carbon footprint and – not to be ignored – costs.

This year we hope to produce about 30,000kg of salad. We have 11 different types of leaf growing, and pick around 6 per week for our mixed salad bags. Most plants can picked 4-5 times before they get too bitter or start ‘bolting’ (abandoning leaf growth to produce flowers and seeds) and have to go.

Growing in an enclosed space, the plants have to be monitored closely for pests and diseases that will spread like wildfire. At present we have an issue with whitefly in the Claytonia (winter purslane). We’re planning to bring their population back down to a manageable level using a product made from dried chrysanthemum flowers, which works by blocking the spiracles (breathing holes)
of the insect. We never use artificial chemical-based pesticides, and wouldn’t spray the crops even with a natural product during summer, except under very exceptional circumstances. But at this time of year, when all the beneficial insects such as bees, ladybirds, lacewing and hoverfly larvae are dormant, we can rescue our crops with a clear conscience.

We’re planting some extra lettuces next week, but they won’t be ready for a while, so we may not have much to offer for the next few weeks. Bear with us, and normal service will be resumed as soon as they come through!

Ed Scott

8 responses to “Ed’s news: No such thing as too much salad

  1. Green leaves are very good for healthy hearts and eyes. If I haven’t got any nice salad leaves I spread green pesto (made with basil leaves) onto my cheese sandwich or stir a spoonful into my soup.
    “Dark green leafy vegetables contain plant pigments lutein and zeaxanthin. According to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, lutein and zeaxanthin may help to prevent strokes, heart disease and breast and lung cancer. Vegetables that contain the most amount of lutein and zeaxanthin include kale and spinach.
    Lutein and zeaxanthin absorb excess light in plants to reduce sunlight damage. In eyes, lutein and zeaxanthin can be found in the macula. Studies from the American Journal of Epidemiology, Ophthalmology and Archives of Ophthalmology found that those who had more lutein and zeaxanthin in their diet were found to have a lower incidence of AMD.”

  2. Dear Ed Scott,
    please take real care before you think about using a “product made from dried chrysanthemum flowers, which works by blocking the spiracles (breathing holes) of the insect.
    You may inadvertently kill other insects, beneficial insects like bumble bees and bees. And we need to do all we can to protect the bees.

  3. Dear Ed
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article. It was good to learn what goes on in the poly tunnels and some of the problems you encounter
    I always look forward to reading the weekly Riverford newsletters, if not online when I receive our delivery of vegetables.

  4. The oak leaf lettuce has been exceptional, Ed. We can’t get enough of our mixed salads with bean sprouts, grated carrot, sliced leek, pepper and tomato. Delicious! Nice to see the lambs lettuce to supplement the oak leaf this week too. Thanks all!

  5. Peashoots and lambs lettuce have been wonderful – especially the lambs lettuce. So great to get it! (An extra but worth it)

  6. Anyone who complains about too many courgettes should try putting them in cakes – particularly chocolate (Jack Munroe recipe).

  7. Loved the bag of salad leaves in the less roots veg box a week ago , a delicious light lunch 😊, thank you

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