James Martin in field of lettuce

James Martin discovers what it takes to produce quality lettuce

James Martin meets with Asda's lettuce growers

By Asda Good Living, 20 September 2016
James Martin discovers what it takes to produce quality lettuce

We all know James Martin is passionate about food but he’s particularly enthusiastic about discovering where ingredients come from. That’s why we invited James to visit some of Asda’s top veg growers where he met farmers and producers who could share how our great quality veg is grown with care and attention. 

‘It’s sweet, with a distinct taste. It’s my first choice for lettuce. I like it when every leaf tastes different.’

James visited lettuce grower, Len Wright on his farm in Lancashire and then revealed how the simple lettuce can be cooked in a delicious savoury lamb dish. James explains that the French cook with lettuce all the time. Well, if it’s good enough for our neighbours across the Channel…

Meet the producer

Lettuce grower Len Wright comes from a generation of farmers going back to the 1500s. He first started cultivating salad leaves in Lancashire in 1966, and it’s the Romaine lettuce he supplies to Asda that he enjoys the most.

‘It’s sweet, with a distinct taste,’ he explains. ‘It’s my first choice for lettuce. I like it when every leaf tastes different.’

James spoke to Len and colleague Jamie Baybutt at Baybutt’s Farm, Southport, where they grow over 20 types of lettuce, from the ever-popular Iceberg to Red Gem and, of course, Romaine.

Len explains that the climate and location make the area perfect for growing salad. ‘We’re based in a unique place,’ he says. ‘Our farm goes right up to the coast, so the salt from the sea plays a part, too – you can taste it in the earth.’

‘Growing Romaine on our wonderful peaty soils gives a particularly sweet taste and a good shape,’ Jamie explains.

‘They call Lancashire the “salad bowl of the UK” as it’s ideal for growing all the ingredients that make up a salad,’ adds Len.

Growing a business

Len was one of the first farmers in the area to grow salad.

‘At first I had to improvise as I had nobody to tell me how to do things,’ he recalls. ‘I’ve devised all the techniques that have brought us to where the farm is today.

‘When we first started out, we supplied to local shops, markets and wholesale outlets. Then things expanded – and I’ve been working with Asda for 28 years now.

‘In the early days, we worked seven days a week to build up what we have today and it changed our lives dramatically – I’m very proud.’

Wine match

Extra Special Gavi is a fresh, crisp white wine won’t overpower the delicate flavour of lettuce. Made from the Cortese grape, expect a lemon palate and a nutty finish. 

Give it a whirl

Try cooking James’s seared Romaine lettuce with mint, peas and lamb chops

James Martin says: ‘This is a fantastic way with Romaine. Cut the lettuce into quarters, leaving the base on. Then char the pieces on a grill pan or barbecue for a couple of minutes. It’s amazing! You can serve it simply drizzled with a little dressing and a sprinkling of black pepper.

‘If I’m using Romaine in a salad, I keep the leaves quite large and use just a small amount of salad dressing. I make a classic French version with vegetable oil, a bit of vinegar and a touch of mustard and water to bring everything together.’

Find everything you need to make this delicious recipe at Asda.com