Top 8 salad bags tested

BAGS of lettuce — bags of flavour, bags of crispness. At least that’s what we should find when we pay anything from 89c to €3.99. 

Top 8 salad bags tested

Having a bagful means an easy meal to hand.

Keep it in the fridge and before use, separate some baby gem leaves and fill with spoons of hummus or a nut paste, top with a mix of leaves, a slice of tomato or chunk of cheese or ham, and you have a starter or lunch treat. It’s all about assembling flavours.

I learned a lot this week. First of all, a small number of wholesalers supply most of the supermarkets, so a pair of baby gem lettuces in many outlets which state ‘grown in Ireland’ probably come from the same supplier which moves fast to keep the produce on the shelves as fresh as possible.

This produce is grown without insecticides or other chemicals and is of excellent quality.

The second important lesson is that produce brought in from outside the country is less satisfactory as travelling time, and perhaps quality in the first place, means it deteriorates more rapidly.

Lettuce is one product that really should be local to be at its best.

I suggest not buying produce that has any less than two days use-by date stamped on it.

In most cases it will be past its best as we found in many of our samples.

For this reason, I had to eliminate many salad bags from our survey.

Kildinan Farm organic mixed leaves €2.60

100g of salad leaves, with mizuna, winter purslane and rocket had easily the most attractive and enticing label.

The certified organic crops are watered from their own well on the farm in Ballyhooley, Co Cork.

The leaves were lively and full of goodness, with a perfect mix of leaves with the rocket elegant and not over-peppery.

We bought in Caulfield’s SuperValu, Merchants Quay, Cork. See Kildinanfarn.com for other stockists.

Score: 9.5

Tesco Irish Little Gem lettuce 89c

Two heads here are particularly good value.

There was no mention of the producer, but they are supplied by Total Produce Food Service (TPFS) in Co Dublin.

The company is launching its label Grá this weekend at Bloom.

Good lettuce, tasty and no deterioration in leaves with four days to use-by date.

Glad to hear from TPFS that the price reduction comes from Tesco, not from pressure on the supplier.

Score: 9

Florette Leafy Rocket €3.99

89% baby chard, escarole, and spinach with 11% wild rocket sounds like a good mix.

A code given on the back of the pack and a figure 6L on the front, suggests that the contents were produced in the UK.

With a use-by date two days ahead of purchase, the leaves were past their best, and were limp and tasteless.

Score: 2

Marks & Spencer Simply M+S Irish Little Gem lettuce €1.29

Mark McCann is named as the grower, and he also supplies to a wholesaler for other outlets.

This lettuce is always reliable. More expensive than Tesco, but very good — crisp and tasty.

Good celery and Irish tomatoes here too to buy with the lettuce.

Score: 8.5

Biologische Bindsla Little Gem lettuce €2.45

We found quite a few bugs on the leaves which came to life and moved after opening the lettuce heads. I washed the leaves and tasted them, and they were fine.

However, I wondered what was on the leaves that I could not see? Had eggs been laid on them? Not the good side of organic. Tasters were nervous. From Murcia in Spain, it’s sold in speciality shops.

Score: 2

Lidl Oaklands mixed leaf salad €1.69

Spinach, rocket, red chard, bulls blood, tatsoi and red Batavia come from Italy.

The rocket dominated the mix and it was harsh and bitter. The tatsoi — a fairly bland, soft leaf — was overpowered by it.

There was red Batavia, but with two days to go to use-by date, it lacked its usual brightness. The dark red bulls blood survived the best.

This needs to have a shorter shelf life to be of use, and have far less rocket, or perhaps younger leaves.

Score: 2

Dunnes Stores Caesar salad €1.80

With a sell-by date three days ahead of my purchase, the 67% cos lettuce was fresh and crisp with no darkening edges.

A creamy Caesar dressing in a small pouch was pleasant with enough traditional cheeses — regato and parmesan cheese — and plenty of other ingredients.

The result was a fresh salad with a quick and easy dressing, topped with dried out croutons which, laced with the dressing, was quite acceptable. Liked by all the tasters.

Score: 6.75

Donnelly rocket €2

Produced by Wonderfoods for Donnells in Dublin, this rocket was going out of date on the day we bought it but it was still good.

Not too bitter and with a lovely pepperiness, I would dilute it with other types of lettuce for a salad, or serve classically with parmesan shavings for a delicious lunch.

From O’Driscoll’s Ballinlough, Cork and many large supermarkets. Worth watching out for.

Score: 8

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