Grow your own Greens this St Patrick’s Day

Grow your own Greens this St Patrick’s Day
To love them more and waste them less!
50% of Lettuce we buy ends up in the bin!

Don't sow the whole pack at the one time! Just a little bit every few weeks

The EPA’s Stop Food Waste programme has joined forces with Grow it Yourself inviting you to Grow your own Greens this St. Patrick’s Day to love them more and waste them less. As the weather warms up, and thoughts turn to the idea of healthy salads, Stop Food Waste reminds you that 50% of the lettuce we buy ends up in the bin. Stop Food Waste and GIY are encouraging you to grow your own lettuce and other green vegetables so that you just use what you need when you need it and avoid waste.

“Bags of salad leaves are expensive to buy in supermarkets and because they're washed and ready to eat, they have a short lifespan in the fridge,” says Odile Le Bolloch, spokesperson for Stop Food Waste at the EPA. “By growing your own, you can pick as much of it as you need for each meal. Most varieties of lettuce are easy to grow and can be sown anytime between spring and summer. Apart from traditional lettuces, such as 'Cos', 'Iceberg' and 'Butterhead', there are many others to try, including loose-leaf types and oak leaf lettuce, radicchio, rocket and endive. That way you can enjoy salads with a mix of colours and textures.”

“If you go to the trouble of growing your own greens, watch them grow and carefully tend to them you will naturally appreciate them much more when it comes to eating them” says Michael Kelly founder of GIY. “There is nothing like being able to enjoy the distinct flavour of fresh lettuce from your garden and knowing you'll always have an easy and healthy side dish at the ready!”

GIY advises you don’t need that much space to grow a few heads of lettuce, rocket or herbs, even a window box would do where space is limited. You can start the window box indoors and once the first few shoots start coming up you can put it outside on a sunny sill, making sure you keep them watered.

What kinds of salad you grow depends on how much space you have and whether you like sharp, peppery leaves like rocket, or mild ones like Romaine or butterhead. Most seed companies offer mixed selections, so you can have a go at growing a little of several varieties. GIY suggests: “If you sow a few seeds every few weeks between now and August, you'll have a continuous supply right through until autumn”.

To avoid wasting lettuce, Stop Food Waste adds: “Don’t harvest the lettuce until you are ready to use it and don’t pull the whole lettuce out in one go – just cut the leaves you want to eat and more will grow back”.

Here are some types of salad greens you might consider growing:

Butterhead - This is the classic lettuce seen in kitchen gardens. It is a round lettuce with soft, loosely packed, green leaves and may not always have a heart. It is rather bland in flavour.

Iceberg - The dense heads of pale green leaves are used in mixed salads and side salads. It has less flavour than other types of lettuce but it requires little preparation and will last up to two weeks in the refrigerator. It is commonly used in kitchens and has excellent texture qualities.

Lollo Rosso - leaves are frilled with a dark red edge, which makes it very attractive in salads.

Oakleaf - falls into the general category of salad bowl types. As the name suggests it has a leaf which is shaped like the leaf of an oak tree. It produces a large loose head of lettuce which does not have a great shelf life but is perfect for cutting what you need and leaving the rest to grow.

Cos/Romaine - It is a tall lettuce with crunchy leaves and a distinctive flavour, the star of Caesar salad.

Rocket - has a wonderful peppery flavour that is excellent in a mixed green salad. It has small, bright green, dandelion shaped leaves.

Stop Food Waste also suggests once
you start growing healthy salads why not consider making your own compost from unavoidable food waste generated in the home. Odile says: “Home composting is the ideal way to reuse most of your garden and kitchen waste and you can use the compost to improve the soil in your vegetable garden. Compost is magical stuff – especially if you have made it at home yourself. It is full of nutrients and life. It improves the soil’s fertility, texture, structure and moisture and nutrient-holding capacity. And remember, healthy soils grow healthy, disease resistant plants. The Stop Food Waste website has plenty of information on the ‘art’ of composting, from choosing a composting system to suit your needs to the correct mix of ‘ingredients’ for perfect compost and troubleshooting some of the more common problems in relation to composting at home.”

The STOP Food Waste programme is funded under the EPA National Waste Prevention Programme (NWPP). Waste Prevention is the preferred waste management option in Ireland. By not generating waste, we can eliminate the need to handle, transport, treat and dispose of waste. We can also avoid having to pay for these services. In light of the significant issues arising from the disposal of food waste, and the realisation of the costs associated with this, the NWPP Prevention Plan 2009-2012 set out to promote food waste prevention and home composting.

GIY’s vision is for a healthier, more connected and more sustainable world where people grow their own food. We bring people together in community groups and online to inspire and empower them to grow vegetables. There are over 100 GIY community groups and approximately 12,000 people involved in the movement around Ireland. GIY is a registered charity – CHY 18920.