Quinta grows a special kind of lettuce that grows like a head lettuce, but cuts like a leaf lettuce. This let’s us get the finished product to you without plastic packaging, and a whole lot less work.
When we first started growing, lettuce was a challenge. Chefs and customers demand small or baby leaf lettuce that mixes up nice into a salad. To do this you’d have to grow long rows of closely spaced tiny lettuce plants, like planting a row of grass. Then, because you don’t want chemical herbicides in your food, you’d have to weed those long rows of tiny plants with special cultivating tools. And even with the best equipment, it’s impossible to get 100% of the weeds.
Let’s say all goes well and you have a healthy row of thousands and thousands of tiny lettuce leaves. You go along and cut the leaves with a special harvester, wash the leaves in big tubs, pick out all the leftover weeds, and dry the leaves on huge drying racks so that they don’t go soggy. Now you’ve got to get it to the customer. And what’s the easiest, cheapest, most convenient way to get thousands of tiny leaves packaged and sent to someone's home? Plastic bags and plastic containers. And in case you were wondering, those plastic salad containers are not recyclable. Yes that’s right, those huge shelves of lettuce stacked up at the grocery store are all packaged in single-use plastic containers.
Recycling makes us all feel good. Maybe it makes us feel like we’re doing our part to reduce the waste and plastic that ends up in our landfills and oceans. But the reality is that recycling is an industry, and not everything that is “technically recyclable” is “profitable or efficient to recycle.” Even things that say “recyclable” on the bottom, are not getting recycled. That means that most of the plastic bags and plastic salad containers that you take home from the grocery store will end up in a landfill or worse.
Faced with this reality and all the hard work that goes into growing herbicide-free leaf lettuce, we did not market this kind of stuff until we found a special variety that we call Sweet Lettuce. It is just that, sweet, but it has other qualities that make it special too. The leaves of Sweet Lettuce grow small and are all connected at the bottom of the core. It is easier to grow, weed, harvest, and wash. Like we said earlier, our Sweet Lettuce grows like a head lettuce but cuts like a leaf lettuce. That means the stem is the packaging.
When you get Sweet Lettuce home, simply turn it over and cut off the stem and core (like cutting the bottom of a bouquet of flowers). The leaves should fall loose and be ready for a salad just like that! Oh, but don’t forget the vinaigrette and maybe some cherry tomatoes.
To be sure about what is recyclable, you should check your local curbside recycling guide. Here’s a link to Milwaukee’s Curbside Recycling Guide.