In today’s headlines, it reads that Consumer Reports tested 208 containers of bagged salad greens. They found 39 percent of these samples had unacceptable levels of coliforms and 23 percent had unsafe levels of enterococcus. Coliforms are found in the feces of warm blooded animals, in water used to irrigate the crops, in soil, and on vegetation. They show sanitation problems in the growing or harvesting of the crop. Enterococcus are facultative anaerobic organisms that can cause infections.
They did not find EColi, listeria, or salmonella in the samples which it good considering other cases of contaminated produce in the past. They only tested 208 containers of bagged salad. There are thousands of bags that are shipped every day from just one producer. So this does not mean that the bag you bought does not have EColi in it. Buying organic does not mean its safe. Consumer Reports found organic bagged produce also contained problems. The way the produce was packaged did not make a difference in the results. They did note that products containing spinach contained higher amounts of bacteria.
Buy fresh lettuce and greens that are not bagged.
Buy fresh lettuce and greens that are not cut up and bagged. When you cut up produce and begin exposing it to air, it begins to lose vitamin C. It ages more quickly when it is cut. Putting it in a bag causes it to spoil more quickly because moisture is locked inside the bag, making it a perfect medium for bacteria to grow.
Buy from local Farmers Markets.
Buy your fruit and vegetables from local Farmer’s Markets. The food comes fresh from the field so it will last longer. It has not been stored in a refrigerated cooler somewhere for days. This fresh product contains more vitamins, especially Vitamin C because of its quality. Buying at the Farmer’s Markets supports the local community farmers and their families as well.
Tips for buying lettuce:
Observe the bagged lettuce or fresh whole lettuce to make sure the product is fresh and crisp. If it is bagged, look at the expiration date and pick the freshest package. Look to see if the bag contains pieces of wilted or slimy produce. If there are, choose a different bag.
Keeping lettuce fresh longer:
Keep your lettuce in the crisper section of your refrigerator so it keeps longer. Your leaf lettuce varieties need to be eaten within 5 days or less because of spoilage. Do not store your lettuce with apples and other fruits. Apples and fruits produce ethylene gas which causes the lettuce to spoil more quickly.
Steps to take with all produce, especially lettuce and spinach.
Wash all produce, bagged or not thoroughly to remove dirt and bugs. Remove wilted, slimy, or brown areas of the leaves. Pat the leaves dry to remove excess water or buy a spinner.
Growing you own lettuce and greens is fun and easy:
The easiest lettuce to grow is leaf lettuce. Leaf lettuce is great because you only pick what you need at the time. Head lettuce is harder to grow and tends to bolt when it gets warm. Lettuce is a cool weather plant, so the time to plant is now , not later. Here in San Diego at least, many areas do not get frosts at this point. This does not apply to the back country such as Julian and Descanso. You may need to wait in those back country areas until the end of this month or April.
The healthiest varieties to grow are romaine, loose leaf, arugula, red lettuce, and butterhead.
Lettuce and greens can be grown in almost every living situation. If you have a patio or porch that gets lots of sun, your container plants will grow. Lettuce could even be grown inside an apartment if the room gets plenty of sunlight. Veggies do not need fancy containers to grow in. You can buy shallow plastic tubs from Walmart or other discount stores. For lettuce, the container need to be at least 6 inches deep and three feet wide. You could even plant one or two plants in a 10 or 15 gal black container. Make sure you put drainage holes in the bottom of the container. You will get plant rot otherwise.
Buy a good quality potting mix and either grow the greens from seeds or buy a tray of lettuce plants. I buy plants to speed up the growing process. After they are planted, I layer the area around the plants with wet shredded paper. This preserves moisture, keeps the plant leaves cleaner, and also deters cut worms. Newspaper also deters cats from using your planter box as a litter box. Cut worms are tiny little caterpillars that eat your tender lettuce plants. You can hardly see them but you know they are there when the lettuce leaves begin to disappear. If you do not stop them, the cutworms will eat your lettuce leaves down to the ground in two days. Spaying the plant with a commercial product containing Neem oil will kill them.
Growing your own lettuce, tomatoes, and veggies will give you great satisfaction. You will also be providing your family with the freshest greens bursting with flavor and nutrition. Greens can be homegrown in the city as well. Move over your house plants and move in home grown veggies. You will love the result.