Britain might not have the balmy climate that some Mediterranean countries enjoy, but that doesn't mean that we can't grow splendid salad leaves on our own soil.
Savvy growing techniques have expanded the range of lettuce available, as farmer Gordon Stokes, of Langmead Farms (who have been growing lettuce for Tesco for over ten years) explains: ‘We grow a wide range of whole-head lettuces, including Iceberg, Little Gem, Romaine, Sweet Baby Romaine, Red Gem and Finest Dolce Verde. And because we take advantage of the different micro-climates of the coastal plains and hills of the South Downs, where we're based, we can give the crops the best possible conditions at different times of the year. That means we can grow lettuce here from early May right up until mid-November.'
Once the lettuce is ready to harvest, Gordon and his team go to great lengths to make sure the lettuces stay in peak condition. ‘We pick all our salad leaves by hand and they're packed in the field on our rigs (specially designed equipment that allows our growers to pack the lettuces straight from harvest in the fields) to ensure minimal handling,' says Gordon.
And, what's more, the lettuces are reaching the store, direct from the farm, faster than ever before.
‘The picked lettuces are dispatched under chilled conditions and arrive in store within 48 hours*. That kind of rapid turnaround makes all the difference to the freshness - they're beautifully crisp.'
Try this delicious recipe for iceberg lettuce with chicken
*Excludes Highlands, Islands, NI and the everyday value lettuce range