Britain doesn't have enough salad to go around

salad on a plate
CC BY 2.0 Jessica Spengler

Severe flooding in Spain has led to shortages so bad in the UK that some supermarkets are flying produce in from the United States.

If you live in the United Kingdom and have made a New Year’s resolution to eat more salad in 2017, you might have to rethink your strategy. Britain is experiencing a significant shortage of green vegetables in its grocery stores, including iceberg and gem lettuces, broccoli, celery, and citrus fruits, such as clementines and satsumas.

At this time of year, these fresh foods are typically imported from Murcia, a key growing area in southeastern Spain that provides 80 percent of Europe’s produce during winter months. Extreme flooding and incessant downpours, however, have reduced much of the harvest to 30 percent of what it usually is. Celery is down by 40 percent.

The Guardian quotes a spokeswoman for the British Leafy Salads Association:

“These have been among the worst downpours we have seen since these farms were established in the 1980s. The rainfall has been so intense that the ground is saturated and there is nowhere for the excess water to go.”

Many seedlings have been lost in the flooding, too, which means that scheduled harvests in February and March will not happen, leading to inevitable further shortages.

As a result, some British supermarkets are turning to the United States for help, asking that fresh produce be flown across the ocean to help stock shelves temporarily.

This unfortunate flooding is a valuable reminder of the unpredictability of weather and the harvest – something that we, in our modern, consumer-based world, don’t think enough about. We tend to be so far removed from the source of our food that it’s easy to forget how something like too much rain can actually affect whether or not there is salad on our dinner plates.

Perhaps we should ask ourselves the question, "Should we even be eating salad in wintertime?" This is something we've debated many times on TreeHugger. (See "Local Groceries, all winter long," for further reading.) Salad is not the only vegetable dish out there, even though it may be the most popular. Britons (and others worldwide) should seek out local, seasonal alternatives that are just as nutritious and do not rely on airplanes and refrigerated trucks to serve them at dinner. How about some mushy peas instead?

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