Video guide to lettuce farming in Cambridgeshire
Hello, I'm Gareth McCambridge, this is G's Growers, welcome to Cambridgeshire. We've been supplying Tesco with lettuce for over 30 years.
The perfect location for growing lettuce
This is the fine soil of the Cambridgeshire fens, this is perfect for growing lettuce and it is our major strength. We will be putting about 100,000 lettuce per hectare into these fields. Cambridgeshire offers us a wide variety of soil types; it is the warmest part of England, or one of the warmest parts of the UK, which allows us to start the English season very early. The land is predominantly black so it allows the soil to warm up very quickly in the spring, it's very fertile. Our lettuce is sown into peat blocks in this facility here. We then take those blocks, in the trays, to the field and plant using a semi-automatic transplanter, which is quite an intricate piece of technology. The plant, in the early season, it can be in the ground for up to 90 days, whereas in the middle of summer they will be mature and ready for harvest within 40 days.
So what we have here is an Iceberg lettuce in its natural state and then this in my right hand is an Iceberg lettuce as is packed for Tesco. Behind us you see one of our mobile pack houses and one of our harvest crews. This crew will be harvesting about 50,000 lettuce per shift, we double shift so 100,000 lettuce per day will come off this particular machine. The lettuce comes off this machine, in a box ready for Tesco, ready to go into our cold chain. So we're now looking at what's left of the Iceberg crop after the harvest crew have gone through; the outer leaves, the remnants of the lettuce, which is all a great source of green manure, recycling nutrients into the following crop. So we will end this land, plough it and completely recycle the nutrients.
Enjoying our lettuce
Because the lettuce is fresh from the fields it's always a good idea to wash before use. You need to look for lettuce that is fresh, it's crisp and it is bright green. What I always do, and what the best practice is to do is apply dressings at the last minute to avoid the lettuce leaves going soggy. Tesco customers should always get the lettuce in the salad drawer in the fridge as quickly as possible, leave it there, wrap it again after use and the shelf life of our lettuce will be extended.