This 'n' Data

Facts and figures - and other fun stuff - you can turn into a competitive advantage.

The poll position

Here’s what industry folks have been telling us in recent online polls. Be sure to check each week to cast your vote on various pertinent topics.



Lettuce entertain you
It's not uncommon for my wife to come in the door griping about something. Recently it was the price of lettuce. She complained that she had to pay $3.49 for a head of lettuce. Then she asked, “Are you growing lettuce this year?” It just so happens that I am. I grew it last year, but I don't think she noticed.

There are several types of lettuce to grow, at least 75 varieties, according to the Johnny's Selected Seed catalog. Probably the king of the head lettuce is Iceberg. It forms a head like a cabbage, and people like it because of the crunch rather than the flavor. Of course, after you put all that salad dressing on it, who really knows what lettuce actually tastes like?

I have a bit of lettuce history ... Christopher Columbus was the first to introduce lettuce to the new land. History does not specify if the lettuce was on the Nina, Pinta or Santa Maria. I sort of lean toward the Nina.

The big break in lettuce history happened in 1926 and featured none other than the great Bruce Church. Bruce bought a field of head lettuce in Salinas, Calif., and wanted to ship the crop to the East Coast. He packed ice around the plants in the train car so they would keep fresh on the trip. When the kids in Maine noticed this, they would yell, “Here come the Icebergs!” The name stuck.

Looseleaf lettuce is the easiest to grow and is quite healthy, containing almost six times more vitamin C and 10 times more vitamin A than Iceberg lettuce. Leaf lettuce grows fast and can be harvested in three to four weeks. In early April I plant the seeds; by the end of when you are ready to plant flowers, I will have already had a month of eating fresh salad.

If my math is correct, there are 600 seeds in a packet of lettuce. The packet cost about $3.49. If I cut the lettuce and package it, I should be able to make $2,094 by selling it to my wife. With this profit, I would be able to spend my winters in the Bahamas. The moral of the story: Bruce wasn't the only Church with the brains to make a little lettuce off of lettuce.

– Gary Church, a former grower, is a columnist for the New Castle (Pa.) News



June 2011
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