Ask Stella

How to Keep Lettuce Fresh and Crisp

Question:   Do you have any suggestions on keeping lettuce from going bad too soon?  -Glenn

Of course!  Here are a few simple ways you can have crisp, fresh  lettuce on hand for delicious salads.

1. Get Fresh - Buy the freshest lettuce you can from a farmer's market or a grocery store you know that typically has good produce. 
2. Keep it cool - Set your refrigerator and produce drawer temperature and humidity controls correctly.  You don't want your refrigerator temperature set low and the humdity high or your lettuce will "sweat" and get soggy, especially if there is water from the leaves already pooling in the produce bag.  Likewise, if you have the fridge set to the coldest setting, and the humidity set too high or the leaves are wet, your lettuce  will frost (which is equally as tragic!). 

3. Wrap it Up - If you buy iceberg lettuce (which I don't really advocate since it is has zero nutritional value), simply wrap it in a moistened paper towel as soon as you get home from the store and place it back in the plastic bag before storing it in the drawer.  The really absorbent kind of paper towel works best.

With leafy lettuce greens like romaine, red leaf or green leaf lettuce, you can follow the same process.  I have found though that it is better to remove leafy greens from their plastic bag and pat the leaves dry with a paper towel before storing them if they are wet from the produce sprayer at the store.  Squeeze the water out from the paper towel and wrap the head of lettuce up.  Place the wrapped head of lettuce back in the bag and in the produce drawer.

4. Room to Breathe - Store your lettuce in your produce drawer with plenty of breathing room.  Leaves can be easily bruised if you have lots of other vegetables crammed in with the lettuce.

5. Water in the Bag? - As soon as you see water pooling up in your the produce bag of lettuce, drain it out if you your going to only use part of the lettuce and storing the rest for later use.  Water pooling in the bag can be a sign that your humidity setting is too high, so just keep an eye one it and make adjustments if you notice this happens often.

6. Storing Leftover Salad? - Lay a damp paper towel over the top of the salad and cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a tight fitting lid.

Kitchen Tip: To save time in the kitchen, wash and tear your greens and make a big salad "base" that you and pick off for a few days during the week.  Since you've already made a salad base, changing up the basic salad with different vegetables, chicken, tuna, fresh herbs, etc. is a snap!

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