How to Store Lettuces and Greens
It is finally starting to warm up in Minnesota. I am eager to get my garden started. I love to grow simple spring lettuces. They are easy to plant, grow quickly and don’t need a lot of space. They work well in garden beds, planters and small container gardens. Salad greens are a cool weather crop. They tend to bolt and turn butter in the hot summer heat so plant early spring and fall for abundant harvests. Local harvests are seasonal but you can look for high quality lettuces year round. Here is a simple guide on how to store your greens for best results no matter when you get them.
Full heads of lettuce are the best option for keeping costs down and flavor high. For extra convenience, you might try the salad mixes that come in bags or plastic “clamshell” boxes.
Ideally you want lettuce picked as recently as possible. Look for clean, crisp, bright leaves, fresh looking cut ends. Lettuce leaves that are darker in color contain more vitamins and minerals like romaine that is rich in vitamins A and K. Iceberg lettuce is one of the least nutritious. Head lettuces should be symmetrically shaped. Some spotting or holes are common, especially in crops raised without sprays.
Watch out for limp, withered leaves that have brown or yellow edges, or dark or slimy spots. You don’t want anything that looks rusty, dried-out, or wilted. Once greens have passed their prime, there is no way to restore them to crisp freshness. Avoid overly large heads of romaine, which may have tough, fibrous leaves.
Iceberg lettuce should be compact and firm, yet springy. Very hard heads may be over mature and bitter. The stem end of a head of iceberg lettuce may look brown. This discoloration is the natural result of harvesting and does not indicate damage.
Wash for best results:
Always wash your lettuce before you eat it. Even if it is pre packaged and says pre washed. Packaged lettuce is often rinsed in a chlorine wash and handled by many people before being sealed. It is best to wash as home as well.
You don’t need to wash all of it at once. Place leaves in a clean colander and rinse under cool water. Don’t dump your lettuce in the sink. Sinks hold bacteria, and they’re a ripe breeding ground for cross-contamination. Dry the leaves thoroughly between towels; you can also use a salad spinner to assist with the drying process.
Storage and Location:
For salad greens to thrive after they’ve been picked, they need slightly humid conditions to prevent the leaves from drying out but should not be wet. Extra water droplets can result in browning and rotting so they must also be kept dry. I have found there are two good ways to do this using a container or a towel.
In a Container
Wash and dry greens then store greens in a large plastic or glass container. Line the bottom of the container with a paper or clean dishtowel and drape another towel over the top inside the lid. If your greens came in a clamshell, just snip the lid off and place a paper towel under the lid. Be sure to fill your container loosely, packing it tightly will bruise the leaves, making them more susceptible to rotting.
In a Towel
Wash and dry the greens then wrap the leaves in several layers of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel, seal in a plastic bag, You could also roll the leaves in a larger towel up and keep the roll in the fridge.
Always store washed greens in the lowest crisper drawer of your refrigerator for up to 1 week. Lettuce stored this way stays crisp and wilt-free, since it is kept hydrated by the slightly moist towels, but basically dry by the towels soaking up excess moisture.
Keep an eye on it:
Iceberg, romaine and kale will store for about a week but other more gentle leaves like butter lettuces and spring greens should be used as soon as possible. Lettuce that comes in a box or bag can keep for a week as well, but make sure you reseal tightly with a paper towel in-between uses.
Spinach and kale are especially good choices for packaged greens because they can be eaten raw and cooked. You can use them in a salad when they’re very fresh and then cook them when they’re starting to turn.
Remember avoid slimy lettuces, slime is a form of rot and rotting produce harbors bacteria. If it’s slimy it’s past it’s prim and should be tossed out.
Again for the best quality lettuces try to buy locally and seasonally. If not buying whole heads look for plastic clamshell containers. These containers offer green more protection in transit and are less likely to be bruised than the bagged varieties.
If you buy bagged lettuce or salads, choose the bag that is the flattest. When the greens are packaged, all of the air is sucked out of the bag. Then as they age, they give off gas, making the bag puffier. Choose the flattest bag and your salad will be fresher–and last longer in the fridge without going bad.
Do you have a favorite way for produce storage? Do you have questions about how to best store a particular ingredient? Let me know, I am happy to help.
For more ways to save money you may also enjoy Grocery Shopping on a Budget How to save money without cutting out the foods you love.
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