Ah! it’s the time of year that I affectionately call “Lettuce Days”! For a vegan, like me, that spells nirvana! Fresh greens, lettuce, kale, and arugula are abundant and ready to eat.
However, the volume can be a little overwhelming, because greens can wilt in a heartbeat if they are not prepped properly.
I’ll show you in five easy steps how to keep lettuce and other greens fresh for up to a week. I’ve used this technique for years and it works like a charm.
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#1: Use Your Greens in Order of Spoilage
I always plan to use my greens in order of spoilage. For instance, a bag of mixed lettuces will spoil in a heartbeat. Why? Because, usually there is too much moisture in that bag. So, they wilt and you wind up throwing them out.
If you I get a bag of pre-washed mixed lettuces, it gets used first. Kale, on the other hand, is a the Sherman tank of greens. It will easily stay fresh for a week or more.
#2: Get A Salad Spinner
If you don’t have a salad spinner, get one now! They are generally under $20. If you are cheap, like me, visit your local thrift store. People donate them all the time!
A salad spinner allows you to use centrifugal force to spin the water and dirt off of your greens.
This 5 quart OVOS salad spinner has all my favorite features! All salad spinners come with either a rip-cord arrangement on the top or an actual handle that you turn.
I prefer the handle version (like this unit) to spin the greens. The handle is easier to hold on to and is less likely to break. The bowl of this spinner is also designed to double as a serving bowl! I like that a lot! This OVOS spinner holds a full 5 quarts.
It’s big enough to handle a whole head of lettuce at one time. Finally, the price is right, making it a sure-fire, great value!
Let’s talk lettuce, first. Basically, you need to remember that water is the evil foe of tender greens. Lettuce are especially susceptible to the influence of sitting in too much moisture. They wilt and die, just as they would in the field with too much moisture.
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Step-by-step instructions for cleaning and storing greens.
1. Prepare the lettuce and wash thoroughly.
If your lettuce is head lettuce, you will need to cut the bottom off of the head of lettuce. This will allow the leaves to easily separate. You’ll notice a lot of dirt wedged between the leaves and at the bottom of the stems. This is normal.
Separate the leaves and throw them in the basket of the salad spinner. Rinse them over the sink, using a strong jet of water. Move the greens around in the basket to insure that there are no bits of dirt stuck to the underside or folds of leaves.
2. Spin the lettuce leaves in your salad spinner
If you don’t have a If you use a colander, drain off as much water as possible. Then, transfer to a clean kitchen towel, gently patting dry with a second towel. Simply place the lid on the salad spinner, be sure the handle is engaged with the inner spinner basket, and spin until the majority of the water is off the lettuce.
The centrifugal force of the turning basket will cause the water to spin off of the lettuce and onto the sides of the spinner.
If you don’t have a lettuce spinner, you can place the lettuce leaves in a colander. Rinse them well. Drain off as much water as possible. Remove the leaves from the colander, laying them in a single layer on a clean, dry dishtowel. Gently pat them with a second clean dishtowel, removing most of the remaining water from the leaves.
Don’t worry about removing every spec of water.
Just a bit should remain on the leaves – like the “mister” in the grocery store – you know, that unit that your kids try to put their hands in the little stream of water and you try to stop them but secretly want to do it yourself.
4. Place a paper towel in the bottom of a ziplock bag.
Here’s where I tell you that if you are environmentally conscious (and aren’t we all these days?) that the reusable mesh produce bags work great.
You can also use a rigid sided container and place a paper towel or a thin, clean, cloth at the bottom of the container or bag.
The idea is that the cloth or paper towel will wick away any excess moisture from the greens, while maintaining enough moisture to keep the environment inside the bag at just the right humidity to keep your greens “happy”.
Vegibag is the grand champion of reusable storage bags! Seriously! It’s a little pricey. But, oh boy is it ever good! Made with organic cotton, it uses European practices for vegetable preservation.
Here’s another option for most produce. These plastic free mesh bags get fantastic ratings and are priced at under $20 for the whole set. They are designed to take to the grocery store with you or to place items like tomatoes or grapes in them at home – really anything you don’t want to place directly on the shelf of the refrigerator. They are not designed for storing washed greens.
5. Put the greens in the bag, seal, and place in fridge
You’ll want to lay the freshly washed greens gently on top of the paper towel.
When I use a traditional plastic baggie (like Ziplock), I leave a small gap in the seal. This helps a little air to get to the greens and, in my experience, has provided just the right amount of moisture in the bag.
That’s it! Using this technique should help greens stay crisp and crunchy for up to seven days.