Waste not, want not! And who wants their salad to taste like compost, anyway?

By Stacey Ballis
March 05, 2020

Just when you think we can’t love salads more, we do. With healthy, plant-forward eating on everyone’s mind, salads just keep getting more and more important, interesting, and fun. Produce aisles have followed suit, offering myriad types of leafy greens in nearly color of the rainbow. It’s tempting to buy them all and fill our crisper drawers. But let us (get it?) make sure we are picking our varieties wisely and storing them smart as well, so we get maximum flavor and texture and minimum melty squishiness. Here are my top tips for shopping and storing all kinds of delicious, healthy lettuces.

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Buy Smart

While it can be very tempting to stock up on a cartload of greens, leafy things have a definite shelf life, and it’s easy to lose track of that once they’re in the crisper drawer. Generally, buy what you need for a 2-5-day span. And remember that smaller and loose leaves will age before whole heads.

Use Your Greens in a Smart Order

A head of iceberg, stored properly, can last up to a week or more. A bag of microgreens on the other hand can wilt and die in 24 hours. If you have stocked up with some variety, be sure to use them in order of what is likely to last the shortest amount of time. You’ll kick yourself if you ate all the romaine yesterday and now your spring mix is a slimy tangle of compost.

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How to Store Whole Heads of Greens

If you bought a whole head no matter what the variety—iceberg, romaine, green leaf, butter, radicchio, or endives—keep it whole as long as possible, as the core will help retain moisture and prevent wilting. To store, take out of the plastic when you get home, and remove any damaged or wilted outer leaves that you won’t eat, since those will only get worse and could make the leaves underneath wilt faster. Run a length of paper towel or a clean lint-free tea towel under cold water and squeeze very dry. Wrap the whole head in the damp towel, and place in a zip-top bag or a breathable lettuce bag, and store in the crisper drawer in your fridge for up to a week.

How to Store Whole Large Leaves

If you want to prep whole leaves of larger heads for ease of use in salads or on sandwiches or as lettuce wraps, remove them from the core, wash well in cold water, and lay out in a single layer on paper towels or a clean lint-free tea towel, and then roll up into a tube, taking care not to crush the leaves in the process. Place into a zip-top bag and store in the crisper drawer in your fridge for up to three days.

How to Store Whole Small or Chopped Leaves

If you have whole small leaves like baby spinach or watercress or cleaned and chopped larger lettuces, the best way to store them is in a large airtight container or lidded bowl, with a damp paper towel or tea towel draped over the top. They will stay healthy and crisp for one to three days depending on how delicate they are.

How to Store Bagged Lettuces

Pre-prepped bags of salad greens can be a godsend when you need salad fast and have no time for washing or chopping. And the bag they came in was especially designed to store them and will do so very well in your crisper drawer up to their expiration date. But once it is open, you will want to remove any unused lettuce from that bag and follow the process for chopped lettuce above.

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