How to Wash and Store Salad Greens
I've heard just about every rumor, theory, and technique out there that claims to be the best way to wash, prep and store lettuce. Some are basic, and some are...creative (case in point: drying your lettuce in a pillowcase). This little guide will dispel the mystery and craziness about storing full heads and pre-packaged greens.
Here at Loveleaf I'm not into complicated methods (or have time for cleaning green-tinted water off the ceiling, as one commenter noted), which is why I'd like to take a quick how-to detour to make a case for the good old fashioned salad spinner.
Just Cuz It Ain’t Fancy Doesn’t Mean It Doesn’t Work
A salad spinner seems like a unitasker that just. takes. up. space. And truthfully I didn’t really use mine either until I started making salads every day.
But a salad spinner is an essential tool in the Loveleaf kitchen because dry lettuce is the ultimate key to prepping salad greens that will stay fresh all week. Moisture = slimy, wilted lettuce = gross = I'm grabbing a panini and chips.
The more I've used my salad spinner, the more I find it is an under-utilized and much maligned utensil, because it can do more than just spin:
- Use the exterior bowl as a large mixing bowl and the interior bowl as a colander.
- Store your washed and dried lettuce directly in the salad spinner in the refrigerator.
I've also found that while I love the convenience of pre-washed salad mixes, a salad spinner will save you money and encourage you to try different types of greens.
Have I convinced you on the spinner? Check out my favorite here.
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Before You Buy Your Greens
Salad greens are sold in several ways: full heads, bunches, pre-washed in bags, pre-washed in clamshells (aka plastic boxes) and loose in bulk bins. (Don't know what to buy? My Guide to Greens can help). Full heads or bunches will save you money, but if you’re short on time or don’t have a salad spinner (yet), a 1 lb clamshell of spring mix is a perfectly good option. They come pre-washed and have the perfect amount of greens for a week of lunches.
Steer clear of boxes with any condensation, an indication that the leaves will wilt soon, and note the expiration date. Avoid any heads or bunches that are discolored or wilted; the greens should look crisp and fresh.
I like to use about 2 cups of loosely packed greens per salad. For five days of lunch salads, that’s about 10 cups of loosely packed greens.
Now, onto the washing, prepping, storing (and eating!).
How to Wash and Store: Full Heads
First, wash and dry your greens using a salad spinner.
- Then, drain the water, gently tear any large leaves, and spin until very dry. And we mean dry. So spin your little (Romaine) hearts out.
After the greens have been washed and dried, here is best way to store greens:
- Line a plastic or glass storage container (or your salad spinner!) with paper towels (I like this airtight bowl).
- Add the greens on top, without packing them down.
- Gently place another layer of paper towels on top of the lettuce.
- Lock down the lid, making sure it’s airtight.
Voila! Your greens are crisp, clean, and ready to go!
How to Store: Pre-Washed Greens
If your pre-washed greens are in a bag, you’ll want to remove them from the bag (discarding any leaves that are starting to brown or wilt) and follow the storage instructions above. There is no need to wash pre-washed greens again.
If you’ve purchased pre-washed greens in a clamshell (a.k.a. a plastic box like photo above), you’re almost set. You’ll want to add a layer of paper towels on top of the lettuce and make sure the plastic box is fully shut after you open it. Storing the box upside down in the fridge (so the paper towel layer is on the bottom) will help drain out the moisture so that the leaves don't get dark and slimy.