Another nationwide lettuce shortage is upon us, though not because of inflation or supply chain issues. Instead, prolonged heat has resulted in the proliferation of two simultaneous lettuce crop diseases, Impatiens necrotic spot virus, or INVSV, and Pythium wilt, destroying an overwhelming number of iceberg and romaine lettuce plants in the last year.
Despite what is going on with lettuce right now, there’s hope yet for savvy leafy green salad eaters. Instead of being at the mercy of unpredictable climate and market conditions, why not take control of your lettuce destiny and grow your own? All signs are pointing to a new and sustainable way of sourcing our greens, eating our way to a better future: indoor gardens.
A Lettuce Shortage Run-Down
Diminished supply in Salinas Valley, California has resulted in both a romaine lettuce shortage and an iceberg lettuce shortage, where 70% of United States lettuce is grown. What does this mean for you, the consumer? A quick glance reveals some startling statistics:
- From October to December 2022, the price of romaine lettuce jumped 47%.1
- In the past three years, Restaurant Business Online estimates the price of romaine jumped a mind-boggling 400%.2
- Major food chains like Panera and Taco Bell pulled lettuce from their menus last month. Smaller-scale establishments, including Greens, Fresh Herbs + Grain in Minneapolis, have been forced to add a surplus charge to their salads.3
The Changing Conditions of Lettuce Growing
Lettuce plants need cool temperatures to survive—around 55-70 degrees Fahrenheit, to be exact.4 If it’s too warm or there's bad weather, lettuce will mistakenly think it’s summer and begin to seed, otherwise known as bolting. Unfortunately, once bolting happens, lettuce loses its flavor, making it largely inedible.
It’s for this reason that scientists and lettuce growers are worried for the future of lettuce crop production. A pattern of warm winter temperatures is becoming the norm, disrupting lettuce growth and enabling thrip, the millimeter-sized insect behind the latest INVSV invasion, to thrive all year long. Thrip can also survive chemical sprays, only adding injury to lettuce’s challenging future.5
Lettuce fields have been hit especially hard in recent months. Unfortunately, these same troubles are likely to occur again, making store-bought grocery store lettuce a less sustainable choice for the dinner table.
Food and Water Waste
In the face of so many obstacles, farmed lettuce is becoming increasingly vulnerable. What’s more, an excess of food and water waste is becoming a regular occurrence, the result of unsustainable demands on lettuce production.
To take a magnifying glass to this twofold result:
- Food waste – When vegetable plants are damaged, food waste naturally follows. But did you know that only the inner heart of romaine lettuce is sold to consumers, leaving an astounding 56% of edible leaves thrown out? The cost to maintain romaine’s crunchy status quo is proving unnecessarily wasteful.6
- Water – These days, irrigation systems rely on water located further and further afield, posing a greater risk of food contamination. Additionally, when large swaths of lettuce are destroyed, the labor, fertilizer, and precious water that aided planting go to waste.7
How AeroGarden Can Help
As lettuce availability, quality, and cost remain susceptible to unpredictable forces, you’ll find yourself asking the same questions over and over again. Is there a lettuce shortage? Is there a romaine lettuce shortage? What can I do?
Fear not! There is a happy (and healthy) end to this story. You can make a positive impact and grow your very own lettuce at home with an indoor AeroGarden. Take a look at 3 steps to avoid future lettuce shortages with a homegrown lettuce garden.
Step 1: Choose Your Preferred AeroGarden
Our most popular bestseller, the six-pod Harvest, and our nine-pod Bounty mini-greenhouses will enable you to grow your own lettuce for salads, wraps, spring rolls, and sandwiches, all from the convenience of your kitchen countertop.
Step 2: Choose a Lettuce Variety
Lettuce grows quickly. The mixed romaine seed pod kit or the salad greens seed pod kit both make excellent choices. Our seed pod kits work in every AeroGarden design, making the decision an easy one. In 4 to 6 weeks, lettuce should be ready to eat, with a continued harvest of 6 months or more to restock your lettuce supply.
Step 3: Start Growing
Once you insert your desired pods, add water and let your AeroGarden take care of the rest. Your AeroGarden is hydroponic, meaning it doesn’t need soil. Easy reminders on the control panel or app will tell you when your garden needs water or food.
To help your bounty thrive, adjust the lights and trim your lettuce to promote new growth. If you’re looking for a greater crunch to your lettuce bite, we recommend aiming a small fan at your AeroGarden, which encourages your lettuce to “toughen” up against the gale.
Evade Lettuce Shortages with AeroGarden
It’s time we reimagine the way we farm, grow, and consume our lettuce, beginning with exploring alternate options we can start right at home. A home AeroGarden can help you avoid future lettuce shortages and enjoy healthy, sustainable lettuce and a beautiful display of greenery in your home.
You’ll have ready-to-eat lettuce at your fingertips, without the worry of pesticides, an increased carbon footprint, or food and water waste. The future of sustainable lettuce is in our hands—and it all starts with your green thumb.
Find your lettuce-growing garden today.
1East Bay Times. $11 for a Head of California Lettuce? Here’s What’s Behind the Shortage Causing ‘Outrageous’ Prices. https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2022/12/16/11-for-a-head-of-lettuce-nationwide-shortage-causes-outrageous-prices/
2Restaurant Business Online. Lettuce Shortage Adds Side Order of Purchasing Pain to Inflation. https://www.restaurantbusinessonline.com/amp/food/lettuce-shortage-adds-side-order-purchasing-pain-inflation
3Insider. Taco Bell and Chik-fil-A are Warning Customers About a Lettuce Shortage that could Impact Their Orders. https://www.businessinsider.com/taco-bell-chick-fil-a-subway-panera-lettuce-shortage-2022-11
4Cornell University. Lettuce. http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/homegardening/scene9aa6.html
5AgAlert. Salinas Valley Farmers Hit by Lettuce Virus. https://www.agalert.com/california-ag-news/archives/november-9-2022/salinas-valley-farmers-hit-by-lettuce-virus/
6World Wildlife Magazine. One Way to Tackle Food Waste? Eat More of What We Grow. https://www.worldwildlife.org/magazine/issues/spring-2019/articles/one-way-to-tackle-food-waste-eat-more-of-what-we-gro
7Retail Insider. Lettuce Shortage in Canada Signals Supply Chain Challenges for Food Retailers. https://retail-insider.com/retail-insider/2022/11/lettuce-shortage-in-canada-signals-supply-chain-challenges-for-food-retailers-op-ed/
PBS NewsHour. California’s ‘Salad Bowl’ is Cultivating More Than Crops. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/californias-salad-bowl-cultivating-crops#:~:text=California%27s%20Salinas%20Valley%20is%20often,with%20plenty%20of%20other%20produce