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What's the deal with fresh lettuce lately?

For the past several months I haven't seen any decent fresh lettuce in the supermarkets. There's still plenty of that abominable bagged lettuce, more of it, in fact, it seems,than before; and there's the old standby iceberg, dry and gnarled as usual, as well as that new-fangled hydroponic stuff. But all the romaine and green leaf lettuce I've been seeing of late is so scrawny and sad looking that I wouldn't eat it if they were giving it away.

I'm wondering whether this is just a local thing or is there a national shortage. Bad weather hurt the crops?

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    1. Yes. My produce buddy told me the lettuce is terrible this year due to weather issue.

      1. Actually, I think the situation has bottomed out. I was at the grocer today and the lettuce (romaine and red leaf) was much fuller than it had been and prices had dropped. Much better than a few weeks ago, when the pickings were dire.

        7 Replies
        1. re: masha

          Good thing because life without crispy romaine lettuce would be a drag.Love the stuff.

          1. re: masha

            Not yet! At least not in Chicago. I picked up a saaaaad head of iceberg for $1.49 and saw them for $2.49 in a different store. $2.49! For iceberg!

            Sigh. Weather. :-(

            1. re: Violatp

              I'm in Chicago too. I don't buy iceberg and haven't noted the price. I mainly buy redleaf & Romaine, generally from Caputo's which tends to have very competitive pricing and good quality lettuce. Nonetheless, a month ago Caputo's was selling both Romaine & red leaf at over $2/lb, and the heads were pretty scrawny. Their price has fluctuated more recently. Most recently, Caputo's has been charging around $1.49/lb for both (One thing I like about Caputo's, unlike some other grocers, is they sell lettuce by the pound, so you don't get ripped off when by the size of the lettuce).

              1. re: masha

                The $2.49 was at A&G on Belmont - generally have really, really good prices on produce. I don't have a Caputo's within easy distance, but I wish I did.

                I didn't know that - that they sold lettuce by the pound instead the head. Nice!

                1. re: Violatp

                  Not sure how Caputo's prices iceberg - could be by the head. Leafier lettuces like red leaf and Romaine are definitely sold by the lb. (Same is true of their bell peppers, unlike Jewel, for example, which typically sells them by the piece.)

                  1. re: Violatp

                    The Elmwod Park Angelo Caputo's is about three miles from A&G. I happened to be in both yesterday. Caputo's had leaf at $1.49/lb. versus $0.79/lb. at A&G. Next week it could easily be the other way around. Leafy greens prices have been even more volatile than normal in these two stores lately. The escarole prices have been pretty wild all winter.

                    1. re: Eldon Kreider

                      Yeah, I ended up at a Jewel and a Dominick's today and their produce prices were just all over the place. Picked up another head of iceberg for $1.99 - heavier than the last one I bought, but still probably only two salads worth vs. my usual three.

                      I just really like iceberg!

            2. Fresh lettuce? As opposed to frozen lettuce? Freeze dried? Canned? Pickled? I didn't realize there were other options.

              2 Replies
              1. re: carolinadawg

                Meaning naked, unprocessed lettuce, as opposed to precut and bagged or otherwise processed lettuce.

                1. re: carolinadawg

                  Heads of fresh lettuce in the produce section.

                2. $1.48 for a large head of iceburg last week in central Florida.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                    I almost broke down and bought a fat crispy green head of iceberg@Winco for 99 cents for wedges with salad dressing. BUT just in the nick of time I spotted luscious romaine heads ($2.00 something a pound) and snatched one up

                  2. Our local Costcos (Orange County, CA) seems to have been unable to stock Romaine lettuce or most of the clamshell-pack 'designer' small head lettuces they usually sell. Add that too the way their boxed "spring mix" type seems to be so wet that you can't really even spin it dry if you try, and the lettuce situation is INDEED pretty bad out there. Sprouts Market seems to have a better handle on the lettuce scene lately.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Midlife

                      I can't even deal with the Spring mix here in upstate NY. I'm seriously thinking about building a cold frame and get some greens started next month. I have plenty of space, so it may be the way to go.

                      I get that the grocers now spray the shelves of loose leaf and romaine, but it's crazy wet and I worry that the extensive moisture - and other hands grabbing and checking the produce - can create a nasty breeding ground for food-related illness. I would love for someone to tell me "no worries."


                      1. re: breadchick

                        What are they spraying it with? I'd be just as concerned about that as all the other human cooties out there.

                        1. re: breadchick

                          I was able to plant some red lettuce and green curly lettuce two years ago...in the ground and it grew beautifully.I just picked a handful here and there for my salads and the lettuce keeps growing. I am in a super growing zone right at the tip of the fertile San Joaquin Valley here in N Calif. near Lodi. I am going to be doing container gardens this year with plastic *kiddie* pools and some large planters because unfortunately the neighbor next door has some lovely trees that cut all the sun off of my tiny garden patch.The pools will go on my far back deck in full sun. Good luck on growing your own.That way we know what we are ingesting)

                          1. re: breadchick

                            They are spraying it with tap water. Refrigeration draws moisture out of lettuce and the water helps keep it crisp.

                            As for the whole dirty hands issue, it grows in the dirt. It arrives at the market chock full of silt, grit, and soil. Your tuburcular neighbors coughing on it probably won't make it less safe to eat. Wash it well.

                            1. re: breadchick

                              If they didn't spray the lettuce, it would wilt. When I took produce trucks out and we were selling lettuce that week, I had to carry a spray bottle with me and spritz it every fifteen minutes or so. Granted, the climate in a grocery store is a little different than Virginia in July, but it still needs to be done.

                          2. It is March

                            Lettuce is a crop that generally doesn't harvest until spring.

                            There are very few domestic growing areas that can produce lettuce crops this time of year. It won't survive a trip across the equator so importing it isn't an option.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Brandon Nelson

                              yeah, only most of southern California and Florida....both harvesting lettuce all day every day this time of year and shipping it coast to coast.

                              1. re: sunshine842

                                Bad weather......Romaine went from $16.00 case to $45.00 case.

                                1. re: Tom34

                                  Oh, and to make matters worse, when produce prices spike, quality usually goes down with more waste up front and also more waste with shorter shelf life.

                                2. re: sunshine842

                                  I am in Virginia and we have at least two growers who have been providing us with lettuce all winter long. All you need is a greenhouse. I know one of them is growing hydroponically, but I'm not sure about the other.

                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    However the primary growing areas for Florida and California are not harvesting lettuce now (Central and Indian river valleys). Central valley is too cold, and IR valley doesn't produce lettuce crops, as it is a citrus growing area.

                                    Leafy vegetables see the lowest production and highest prices in Feb and March.