The Lettuce Gossip

The other day, I went to the store to buy some salad greens and I was aghast to see that a head of iceberg lettuce was seven dollars, a big price jump from the week before. Why the sudden increase? After all, iceberg lettuce is rather traditional and not exactly upscale.  We have all noticed creeping food inflation. Is this sudden price spike a harbinger of things to come? Will a salad become financially out-of-reach for most people or eaten only on special occasions?

Later that night, I talked to my friend Jerry who had talked to his friend Larry who had also been to the store and noticed the price of lettuce, too. Oh my! Hot gossip from the produce aisle! Was this true in other places? I texted my friend, Margie, who lives in Salem and asked her to please note the price of iceberg lettuce next time she went to the store. Did lettuce cost seven dollars only for people in rural Central Oregon for some random reason?

Two days later I was still pondering on this situation. My inquiring mind wanted to know why the lettuce price is so high! I posed my question to Google; apparently many other people had inquiring minds, too. The price spike wasn’t all due to inflation. A disease called the Necrotic Spot Virus hit the Salinas Valley in California (nicknamed the nation’s salad bowl) and caused severe damage to harvests. Seventy-five percent of the crop has been tossed out. The disease affected most of the lettuces, not just iceberg. Add to that more expensive fuel, fertilizer, a shortage in truck drivers, and soaring labor costs and that picture looks grim. Soon, lettuce will be harvested in Yuma, Arizona and prices will decline. If not, who knows, lettuce could soon become a black market item.

For the time being, lettuce is a precious commodity. Store it correctly so that it does not go to waste. When I researched food waste, I learned that the number one wasted item was bagged salad greens, with almost half being tossed out. Most people tend to store lettuce in plastic but lettuce needs air and moisture. Store it wrapped in moist cloth or paper towels that you spray with water occasionally; doing that will prolong the life of your lettuce. The stem on iceberg lettuce falls out when you forcefully whack the stem end on the counter and twist it out. The leaves easily separate that way.

Jerry dropped off a pound of elk meat today; I invited him to come for elk burgers. I will go ahead and buy a head of iceberg because whenever I eat elk, it’s a special occasion.