Why would you grow a lettuce?

WHY would anyone grow a lettuce? I mean, really?

It takes six weeks to grow a lettuce. Even in Tropical North Queensland. And even then it’s a small one.

Six weeks to grow a vegetable two people can eat in 30 seconds.

People will say: “Ah yes, but you don’t have to do anything. It just grows.” Which is nonsense.

I have a row of lettuces. They’re in a cage. A vault. A vault made of chain-link fences, with a wire-mesh roof, a padlock on the gate, and a gatekeeper with an axe.


And this is only the bit you can see now. The tip of iceberg lettuce!

Before my lettuces reached this stage (which is about three centimetres high and small enough to fit the entire row in a sandwich) I had to dig the ground, buy fertiliser, water the ground, weed the ground and build a vault that would keep out a rhinoceros.

Well, all right… not a rhino. But 12 chooks, a dog and two grandchildren. At least rhinos don’t see too well.

And that’s only the front-line attack. There are all kinds of covert operations under way by SWAT teams of slugs, birds, bandicoots, beetles, butterflies and maggots (there must be a reason why nearly of these start with the same letter as bugger, bloody and bastard, but I don’t know what it is).

And they’re winning! You don’t need a tsunami or a hurricane to reinforce your sense of inadequacy in the face of the forces of nature.

You just need a lettuce.

Mind you, there’s a lot more point in battling a hurricane. At least you’re fighting for your home, your job, your life…

But a lettuce? Do I really want to fight for a lettuce? It doesn’t taste of anything. The only quality it adds to a meal is bulk, and not much of that.

Taste? Go on then – tell me what a lettuce tastes of? There’s more taste in a glass of water. True, a glass of water may be less crunchy, but you can always add ice.

And lettuce is good for you? If that’s true, then how much better will mine be, because they’re organic! If I fence the entire one-acre garden, roof it in, sell the grandchildren into slavery somewhere, shoot the dog and eat the chooks I should be able to grow enough lettuce to keep me reasonably healthy for a couple of days.

As it is, the only thing a lettuce is going to do for any sandwich of mine is to make it too thick to fit in my mouth.

There must be a St Lettuce somewhere who’s the patron saint of salad bars. They couldn’t manage with him. (Him? Let’s not be ridiculous – any patron saint involving lettuces is going to be a woman). They’d go broke if they had to fill up the lettuce spaces with something you could taste.

But perhaps that’s unfair. Lettuce isn’t as cheap as you’d think. I’ve done my sums: if I’d bought jumbo jets instead I’d be financially better off. Hungrier, it’s true, but only marginally so, because there is only slightly more nutrition in a lettuce than a jumbo jet, if you don’t count the inflight meals or the tyres.

“So why are we growing them?” I asked my wife.

She said: “Did you know lettuces contain traces of arsenic?” And she smiled.

“Yes but it’s only minute traces. And we only have one row.”

“Where’s the seed packet, and the trowel?” she said.