(April 24, 2:02 p.m.) It may seem coincidental that May would be National Salad Month as harvesting of leafy greens and other vegetables kicks into full steam in the Salinas Valley.

It would seem to be a natural for California leafy green grower-shippers, packers and processors, but it came as a surprise even to Marty Ordman, vice president of marketing and corporate communications for Dole Food Co. Inc., Westlake Village, Calif.

“I had no idea,” he said April 19, while he was attending the committee meeting of the Produce for Better Health Foundation in Monterey, Calif. “There’s a national day for just about everything, so why not salad?”

National Salad Month originated not from the folks who grow salad vegetables, but from those who make what goes on top. The Association for Dressings & Sauces, Atlanta, came up with the idea in 1992 after a Gallup Poll revealed three out of four people eat tossed salad at least every other day.

It’s good timing because, according to Steven Muro, president of Fusion Marketing, Los Angeles, traditional lettuce-based salads have declined in popularity recently in favor of other commodities or they’re being replaced with “complex appetizers.”

If there has been a decline in the popularity of fruits and vegetables, it’s not apparent at Wilmington, Del.-based Produce for Better Health Foundation’s Web site, www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org.

Mary DeGroat, chairman of the foundation’s consumer marketing communications committee, said during the meeting in Monterey, April 17-19, that more than 155,000 visitors have gone to the Web site seeking nutritional or preparation tips for fruits and vegetables.