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1st September, 2004
Fresh, convenient, versatile or overpriced leaves soaked in pesticides and produced by slave labour?In an idle moment I decided to reconstruct the contents of a 99p bag of washed and ready-to-eat salad. Of course, you are not meant to do this; the whole point of bagged salad being that we are too busy to wash our own lettuce leaves, let alone count them. But I wanted to know how many you get for your money.
Erring well on the side of generosity, I reckoned that for roughly £1 I had bought two leaves of frisée, one leaf of red radicchio, and two leaves of a pale green crunchy variety of lettuce. This portion was livened up by 18 tiny whole leaves and seven torn pieces of dark-green leaf about the size of a 2p coin.
Bagged salads did not exist before 1992. Now two thirds of households buy them regularly. The value of the UK salad vegetable market grew by 90 per cent between 1992 and 2002. By 2002 it was worth £1.25 billion – more than the total value of the sliced bread or breakfast cereal markets. This does not mean we are eating 90 per cent more salad; volumes have grown only by 18 per cent over the same period; just that the food industry has found ways to make much more money out of salad.
Time was when we ate lettuces in summer and, following our northern...
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