HARVESTING, TRIMMING, PACKAGING
The following material has been taken from H L Saffell's book: BIG DOLLARS GROWING GOURMET SALAD GREENS. If you would like a copy for your own use, CLICK HERE.
Storage of gourmet salad greens defeats the purpose of growing them. Smart management will try to have the market ready when the crop is ready. But sometimes storage for a brief time is necessary. To store any salad green properly the temperature and humidity must be correctly maintained.
At harvest lettuce should be taken immediately into a cool area where the lettuce can be trimmed, washed and packaged. Lettuce and other salad greens are notorious for not having a long shelf life. According to some authorities, the best method for temporary storage is to wrap each head or package of salad leaves in an open-type polythene bag. This is the procedure many growers follow. This also provides an opening in the bag where you can sprinkle the heads or leaves if necessary. But it's at best a makeshift procedure and only valid for shipping a crop for a long distance, like from California to New York. As mentioned before, lettuce stores very poorly. HAVE AN IMMEDIATE MARKET FOR IT!
But if necessary: when you ship your crop you must inform the carrier the conditions under which the crop must be maintained. This includes proper temperature as well as handling. Leaf lettuce has a storage life of 4-6 days at 32 degrees Fahrenheit and a humidity of 95%. Head lettuce will last a week or so longer. Most other salad greens will last about the same period as leaf lettuce. The carrier must know these facts and be able to furnish the appropriate equipment.
PACKAGING IS ALL IMPORTANT:
Packaging like advertising helps sell your crop. Since packaging technology attempts to provide boxes and containers which will fit on the internationally recognized pallet size of 47 1/2 inches by 39 1/3 inches, the standard vegetable or lettuce container will be about 15 3/4 inches by 11 4/5 inches or 19 3/5 inches by 15 3/4 inches. These figures translate into 40 cm by 30 cm and 50 cm by 40 cm.
As noted before you should package all your produce. On the package should be information which tells your customer what he needs to know - and things you want him to know. The packaging material should be plastic so the customer can see through it. (Customers include chefs, restaurant owners, shops, homeowners.) This information should stress the cleanliness of your product, the great flavor and nutrition -above all, the freshness. Get yourself a logo. What's that? It's a sort of trade mark - a special design for your company and no one else's. Copyright it.
In harvesting the greens, make certain every leaf or sprig is clean. Since you're charging $6 to $8 per pound wholesale, you owe it to your customer to make certain the crop is clean and fresh. If you want to keep your customer and keep him happy you will follow this policy religiously.
Harvesting of gourmet salad greens is a time-consuming process but well worth it. It takes a while to cut a pound of lettuce leaves (and other greens' leaves) only two or three inches long. The advantage to the grower here is that you can come-and-cut-again several times before you have to replant that particular crop. This is especially true with leaf lettuces and things like arugula and the chicories.
HARVESTING LETTUCE BY THE HEAD:
One idea which is slowly taking hold is to harvest lettuce by the head, taking root and all. This usually convinces the customer that your operation is a clean one. You package these heads in polythene bags and of course ship immediately. The smaller heads handled in this fashion will attract a lot of attention. One small head can make one salad. A good idea for the singles scene.
Lastly, we stress again to keep your varieties of gourmet salad greens separate. Each chef knows what he wants and he knows the proportion of each variety he wants to mix. In the next chapter the author will suggest different sets of "greens" which may appeal to your particular market.
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