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TAS Country : August 26th 2010
32 Tasmanian Country Friday, August 27, 2010 Opinion Lettuce leaves healthy footprint IMPORTANT INDUSTRY: A farmer at Forth sprays his lettuce crop. OVER the FENCE John Rich Salads have always been popular and lettuce has always been one of the main ingredients.' LETTUCES are part of the asteraceae daisy family along with zinnias, sun- flowers, artickokes, dandelions, salsify and many other garden plants. The wild lettuce, lactuca serriola or prickly lettuce, is believed to have been cultivated by the Egyptians in 4500 BC. It is said that Hippocrates found the plant's sap was a substitute for opium, although it contains no opiates. The Romans apparently took advan- tage of this property and ate lettuces after meals to induce sleep. Wild lettuce would have had quite a bitter taste and considerably more sap than that found today. While lactuca serriola bears no resemblance to modern lettuce plants, it still grows wild as a common weed in many places throughout the world. And in some places, people will grow it for medicinal and herbal purposes. It is hard to pinpoint the origin of the modern lettuce although the sugges- tion is that the Romans developed broad leaf varieties with decreased sap content. Roman diners were encouraged to eat lettuce at the beginning of a meal in a bid to whet their appetites. The lettuce has been developed to the stage where there are now about 130 varieties available while more than 500 names are used to describe them. There are six commonly recognised cultivar groups: Butterhead lettuce Chinese lettuce Crisphead lettuce Looseleaf lettuce Romaine lettuce Summer crisp lettuce Iceberg lettuces have been specially bred to remove bitterness from the leaves. The looseleaf types comprise a huge range of leaf shapes and colours ranging from pale green to purple. Some of these lettuce varieties also have soft frilly leaves. Romaine lettuce is one of the oldest types of cultivated lettuces. In the marketplace there is a symbolism about lettuce driven by words like ''fresh'', ''cool'', ''crisp'' and ''green''. Each of the words associated with lettuce, which is usually eaten fresh and raw, has strong healthy eating implications. And the majority of lettuces are green which indicates a prevalence of vitamins. Salads have always been popular and lettuce has always been one of the main ingredients. In more recent times there has been a significant shift towards fresh cut salad mixes. Supermarkets now sell a range of packaged salads with a combination of various lettuce and leafy vegetables, called mesclun. AUSVEG reports that lettuce was Australia's 7th largest vegetable crop in 2007-08 with more than 7300ha devoted to lettuce crops. Production is concentrated in the eastern states, particularly in Queens- land and Victoria. Detailed information about Tas- mania's lettuce industry is not avail- able due to the relatively few lettuce producers, however, it is an important Tasmanian industry with a very strong relationship between the grower/packer/retailer and the con- sumer. The recently released Tasmanian DPI Vegetable Scorecard shows salad production had an ex-factory value of $20.6 million in 2007-08 and a gross food revenue of $55.7 million. The United Nations Food and Agri- culture Organisation records that total world production of lettuce in 2007 was about 24 million tonnes. China is the world's biggest lettuce producer with 12 million tonnes a year followed by the US with just over 5 million tonnes a year. Australia is placed 10th producing about 185,000 tonnes a year. Closer to home, Allison Clark from Houston's Farm at Cambridge, has been working on a project funded by Horticulture Australia Limited to de- velop a carbon calculation tool for the Australian vegetable industry and standard protocols for the tailoring of the tool for the rest of the horticulture industry. Houston's Farm is a fully integrated grower and processor supplying lettuce and leafy greens to more than 1400 major retail outlets nationally. The company initially developed a strategy to understand more about greenhouse gases using product ''life cycle analysis''. The business received the first Woolworths Fresh Food grant and the money was invested through HAL to develop a project of wider significance. Stage 1 has been successfully com- pleted with the development of a tool specific to Houston's Farm. Stages 2 and 3 are expected to be completed in 2011. They involve modifying the tool so that it can be adopted by the wider vegetable industry. The project is now at a point where a web-based tool is being trialled with a number of vegetable growers across Australia. The result is expected to give growers an opportunity to input easily identifiable information and determine their own carbon footprint. Your new look Tasmanian Country offers unprecedented opportunities for display advertisements, features and advertorials. For advertising and enquiries contact: Kerri Walsh p: 6230 0640 f: 6230 0766 e: email@example.com Tracey Wright p: 6230 0752 f: 6230 0766 e: firstname.lastname@example.org Get Tasmanian Country to promote your product, property and equipment with a supported editorial feature, contact: Dallas Aldridge p: 6230 0544 f: 6230 0711 e: email@example.com a NEW LO OKfor an OLD MATE ! Round up some new business with just one phone call.
August 19th 2010
September 2nd 2010