So you go to the store to buy some lettuce. You balk at the price of $4-5 a bag a bit but figure good food is worth it. May I suggest there is a cheaper way to get better food?
Grow it yourself!!
OK, don’t freak out and panic. Stay with me here. I promise this can be really easy.
Let me give you all my reasons growing lettuce is waaaaaaaay better than buying it.
- Organic Lettuce is $5 for a small plastic container at my local grocery store. A pack of seeds of of this gourmet mix of lettuce from Peaceful Valley is $2.99. There are 500 seeds in the pack with 5 different types for a little variety. Even if you drop half of the seeds in the grass, the dog digs some up, and you only actually get 3 to grow you are ahead. Seriously you need 3 out of 500 seeds to grow to have saved money. Even the worst black thumb can pull off those kind of numbers.
- Unless you know you are buying locally grown lettuce, that little bag has traveled a looooong way. Between 98% and 100% of all head and leaf lettuce is grown in either California and Arizona. I would imagine if I was shoved into a box and driven across country, I wouldn’t be my best self when I arrived. Same thing with lettuce. As soon as something is picked it starts losing nutrients and starts to breakdown. (This is the main reason why a homegrown pea is like nothing you have every tasted. The sugars start to turn to starch as soon as it’s picked.) When the lettuce is in your backyard it has no time to lose nutrients or flavor before it hits your plate.
- It is hard to keep lettuce or any food safe while you try to get it to market. As I said, as soon as you pick it, it’s all downhill. There are so many variables to control for. Listeria contamination. Random frogs that get into the mix. Bats too apparently. Yuck. Check out the recall list from the FDA for lettuce, I counted five just on the first page that only goes back to Oct 6, 2017. So, yuck.
- Variety is the spice of life they say. Variety also makes for a delicious salad! I love this gourmet mix and have grown it for years. It contains Red Salad Bowl, Green Salad Bowl, Buttercrunch, Paris Island Cos, and Lolla Rossa. That gives me different colors and textures all from one seed packet for $2.99.
- Get seeds that are open-pollinated and you never have to pay for seed again. That sounds complicated but all it refers to seeds that will “breed true”. These are not a lab created cross but something that will reproduce from their seeds and come out with the same kind of lettuce next time i.e “the old fashioned way”. This is great news because you can save seeds right from your garden and reuse them next year for free! Basically you eat a bunch of lettuce. When it gets old and yucky you ignore it for a bit until there are flowers and then a puff ball (like dandelions when you were a kid). You cut them off, let them dry. Done. And now by saving seeds you never have to buy them again. All your future lettuce is free. I just starting doing this because I thought it was complicated. It’s not. Do it.
- Lettuce is an easy crop to grow. It grows really well in pots. That means you do not need a big garden or even a yard. They also don’t need a ton of sun so no special grow lights. And they like cool temperatures (although not frost) so you can plant some in the spring and the fall. I tried a hoop house last year (garden under plastic) and had lettuce in there all winter.
- I try my best to eat things before they go bad but it doesn’t always work out. Then I think, “Hey I would love a salad for lunch.” I go in the fridge and find half a container of slimy lettuce and realize that I am about to throw $2.50 in the garbage. Not much if it’s just this once but it adds up. If the lettuce is in your garden, you pick what you need right now and leave the rest to keep growing. Need a few leaves for a sandwich? Pick a few leaves. You don’t need to pick a whole head of romaine at a time. There is less waste. Again we are saving money! What happens if you don’t eat all of the lettuce before it dies off? You can add it to the compost or leave it for the worms. They love lettuce. And the soil loves worms.
Depending where you live you may still have time to get some lettuce in this fall. If not definitely put this on your list for your spring garden!