While baby leaf salads are generally harvested by a machine, wholehead is cut and wrapped by hand.
Each product is hand-picked by a disciplined crew of harvest workers, making sure that the product conforms to the customers’ specifications of size, weight, appearance and maturity.
Wholehead crops are cut and the product transferred to the rig where it is graded and put into boxes before being sent for cooling. The harvesting crew continually check the quality of the wholehead so only the best possible product leaves the field.
Each batch of produce contains information about the rig that harvested it, so any problems - for instance with labelling - can be immediately traced and corrected.
To guarantee the best shelf-life, wholehead varieties in particular need to be cooled as quickly as possible after harvesting.
Growers aim to cool the salad leaves to 3°C within 3 hours of leaving
This is no mean feat when you consider that on a hot day the core temperature of an Iceberg lettuce, for example, can reach 26°C. High-tech coolers can rapidly cool up to a hundred tonnes of fresh produce every day.
When baby leaf salad varieties are ready for harvesting, highly specialised harvesting machines cut up to two to three tonnes of leaves an hour.
The leaves are then transferred to highly sophisticated pack houses, located close to the farms so within hours, the plants have been chilled, and packed into 'washed and ready to eat' bags.