How to Store Lettuce so That It Keeps Its Crunch
Twenty20

Whether topped with grilled peaches and halloumi, mixed with fennel and avocado or tossed on top of a pizza, we love tucking into a fresh salad. But one thing that doesn’t pair well with our healthy menu? Limp and withered leaves. Luckily, you can avoid this slimy situation if you know how to store lettuce properly. Follow these steps and you’ll never have to settle for a subpar plate of greens again.

How to Store Head Lettuce

Head lettuce varieties (like iceberg and romaine) last longer than loose-leaf greens and are pretty easy to keep fresh. Follow these steps for lettuce that will stay good for up to three weeks.

1. Prune your plant. As soon as that head of lettuce lands in your kitchen, pull it out of the produce bag and give it a quick once-over. If you notice that any of the outer leaves are damaged (i.e., bruised, slimy, dehydrated or discolored), pull them off and discard.

2. But don’t prep it. A pruned head of lettuce can last in the fridge for weeks—if it’s left untouched. In other words, don’t wash or chop a head of lettuce until you’re ready to eat.

3. Store the lettuce. Bundle your head of greens in paper towels before moving it to its new home, the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Periodically check on your swaddled lettuce and replace the paper towels whenever they start to feel soggy. Note: Other fruits and vegetables can affect the freshness of the leaves or bruise them, so make sure your future salad has plenty of space in the crisper drawer.

How to Store Loose Lettuce

The convenience of loose-leaf lettuce is hard to resist: Who doesn’t want to put a healthy meal on the table in half the time? Unfortunately, store-bought lettuce in a bag or plastic box doesn’t last long, so it’s best to stick with head lettuce unless you have immediate plans for those greens. That said, there are a few steps you can take to prolong the life of your lettuce leaves so they’ll stay fresh for up to ten days.

1. Sort the leaves. You can count on finding some fallen soldiers in every container of loose-leaf lettuce; weed them out as soon as you get home from the store so the slime doesn’t spread. This step is especially important if your purchase was packaged in a plastic bag—a form of storage that provides tender lettuce leaves with zero protection from bruising and subsequent decay.

2. Wash your greens. You bought that box of baby spinach because the packaging boldly claimed the leaves had been washed three times (and no one likes gritty greens). But even triple-washed salad mixes can cause food poisoning so it’s safest to give it another soak. Fill a large bowl with cold water, soak the lettuce, drain and repeat.

3. Spin dry. Before you store those loose lettuce leaves make sure to dry them thoroughly. The best way to do that is with a salad spinner. Shake the excess water off your greens with a couple of whirls in this handy device and then lift out the strainer insert. (Note: If you don’t own a salad spinner you can dry your lettuce by spreading it out in a thin layer between two large sheets of paper towel and gently patting the leaves dry.)

4. Store the leaves. Pick a hard-sided container to protect the leaves from damage and line it with a fresh paper towel. Spread the lettuce leaves out and top with another paper towel. Sprinkle the upper layer of paper lightly with water and store the container in the crisper drawer of the fridge. Replace the paper towels every few days if they get too damp. When handled this way, loose greens should stay fresh for seven to ten days. 

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