The British Are Panicking Because Supermarkets Have Started Rationing Vegetables

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This is just the tip of the iceberg. Photo: Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images

It’s a bad week to get a salad craving in England. Grocery stores over there have had to start rationing lettuce, broccoli, zucchini and eggplants (“courgettes” and “aubergines,” in British-ese), and other vegetables because of bad weather in southern Europe, where most of those items are grown. According to the AP, countries like Spain have been enduring a biblical-sounding onslaught of droughts, floods, and icy weather for months. It’s wiped out crops, and now created a produce shortage felt “mainly by importing countries to the north.”

Iceberg and romaine lettuces have been hit particularly hard, as well as cabbage. Giant U.K. grocery chain Tesco today began limiting shoppers to three heads of iceberg, while the BBC says Morrisons has capped people at two “to stop ‘bulk buying,’” and also set a limit of three heads of broccoli per person. Meanwhile, the price of iceberg at Lidl has nearly tripled, and Ocado, basically a FreshDirect-style service in Britain, is begging customers to please be “flexible” about the brands or varieties of produce they receive.

Supermarkets have pointed out it’s sort of weird to need four heads of iceberg lettuce at once, but that hasn’t stopped people from trying to acquire that many — or from tweeting doomsday pics of bare shelves under a phalanx of hashtags (#lettucecrisis, #courgettecrisis, #saladshortage, #vegetablecrisis).

Some suppliers are already saying it could be May before crops return to full yield, which would stretch this shortage out to epic length, but for now it seems everyone’s at least keeping a good sense of humor about the situation: “Contrary to popular belief,” British supermarket chain Asda said in its statement, “it seems the rain in Spain doesn’t fall mainly on the plane and a run of unusually bad weather has resulted in availability issues.”

British Supermarkets Have Started Rationing Vegetables