Gareth McCambridge is a salad grower from Cambridge. He works for G’s Growers, which has been supplying Tesco with lettuce for more than 30 years. He explains what it takes to produce the freshest lettuce.
Which varieties of lettuce do you grow?
We supply a range of well known leaves such as iceberg, little gem and spinach as well as speciality varieties including lollo rosso and batavia. We also work closely with Tesco and plant breeders to trial many new varieties each year.
Where is your lettuce mainly grown?
We have farms spread across the south coast and East Anglia. The south coast has the perfect climate for growing lettuce, with fresh coastal breezes in summer and relatively frost-free winters. Cambridgeshire offers a wide variety of soil types. It’s also one of the warmest parts of the UK, which allows us to start the English season early. The soil is almost black so it warms up quickly in the spring and is very fertile.
How long is the season?
The lettuce is sewn into peat blocks before being transferred to the field. Early in the season, plants take up to 90 days to reach maturity whereas in the middle of summer they’re ready to harvest within 40 days.
How much lettuce do you produce?
We harvest about 50,000 lettuces per shift, and we double shift so that’s 100,000 lettuces per day. The lettuce comes off the machine into a box and is then ready to go into store.
What happens once all the lettuce has been harvested?
We look at what’s left in the fields and see how we can recycle it. The outer leaves and remnants of lettuce are a great source of green manure. It goes into the following crop so nothing is wasted.
What are the benefits to customers of buying British lettuce?
The UK salad season runs from May to October, so our lettuces have less distance to travel. We harvest by hand and pack in the field on mobile factories called rigs. It couldn’t be fresher if you picked it yourself!
What should people look for when buying lettuce?
Lettuce should be crisp and bright green. Once you get it home, put it in the salad drawer as quickly as possible, and always wash it well before you use it.