Faces behind the food: Tender leaves

We speak to local producers, all passionate about their work, who offer a behind- the-scenes look into the food at your local Tesco store. Their pride in making quality Irish products is obvious, as we hear about early starts, vegetables as part of the family (kind of!) and the love and care ploughed into the farms. Working with Tesco is a vital part of the process – together they ensure the food that ends up in your basket is the best it can be. It’s time to go on a food journey.

Tender leaves

Martin Jones is a lettuce grower, and owner of Salad Days in Rush, Co. Dublin. The family business has been growing produce for 50 years, and supplying Tesco with round lettuce since 1997.

‘The lettuce crop has to be sown, nurtured, and watered daily until maturity, before it’s ready for its onward journey,’ says Martin. ‘In the summer, the process can take up to 49 days for each seedling, and in the winter it takes at least 140 days. Seeing the lettuce through from seedling to maturity is a great feeling and, in some ways, it’s like minding a baby as it grows.

‘Sowing and harvesting takes place year-round and, when the lettuce is ready, a team of us manually harvest it, kitting ourselves out in protective clothing beforehand. We’ll carry out our quality checks on the crop first, before harvesting, bagging, labelling and carefully putting the produce in crates. This all happens in the greenhouses.

‘Our tests include visual inspections to look for bruising or any discolourations, plus weight and shelf-life checks. The produce then goes into the vacuum cooler and onto refrigerated trucks towards the depot. Further weight and visual checks are carried out at the depot before it arrives in store (always within 48 hours), where it’s kept chilled before going on display.

‘I speak to Tesco technical manager Sarah Leonard weekly so we can keep each other updated on how things are going. You always want your product to be the best it can be, so we discuss quality and quantities required for the next week, as well as product development.

‘We use organic based fertilisers, including pure garlic extract, for a more natural and vigorous result. We also use an ecofriendly technology – known as Vi-Aqua – to make our water softer. The lettuce can then absorb both the water and fertiliser better, enhancing natural growth.

‘When I go shopping with my wife, Caitriona, and our three kids, and I hear them say, “Dad, that’s your lettuce!” I know my job is done and I feel tremendously proud.’

‘The Lettuce always arrives in store within 48 hours, our naturally grown lettuce always arrives fresh in store’.


Faces behind the food: Tender leaves