Kitchen Confidence

How to Store Greens

By • April 23, 2013 • 15 Comments

Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. 

Today: Grow up already. Store your greens like an adult.

We talk about food growing up all the time. Now, it's your turn. 

Storing greens responsibly requires a modicum of planning and of stocking your pantry -- but once you get there, your greens will be better. They'll last longer. You'll be able to make that salad you planned for Sunday but didn't get to until Thursday.

So grow up already and store your greens like an adult. 

Here's why you should.
When you throw salad greens haphazardly into the fridge, you might be risking high ethylene levels and too much (or too little) moisture -- all of which will make your greens spoil faster. (Read: no salad for you.) The good news? All of those things are avoidable. 

More: In the mood for revolutionizing your whole kitchen, and not just your green storage? Hit your pantry. 

When You Get Home From the Market
Unless your greens are extraordinarily dirty, wait until you are ready to eat to wash them. If you wash before you store, it's more difficult to get the leaves dry before you put them away -- and extra water droplets can result in browning and rotting. Instead, pick through your greens and remove any that are wilted or slimy. This is extra security: as produce matures, it releases ethelyne gas, which makes neighboring fruits and vegetables ripen (or in the case of leaves, wilt and rot) faster. 

After you pick them over, you have a few different options for storage, but their placement in the fridge is non-negotiable. Always store them in the lowest drawer (usually the crisper) -- it's the coolest, and the colder the temperature, the slower your produce will break down.

  

In a Container
For salad greens to thrive after they've been picked, they need slightly humid conditions (to prevent the leaves from drying out), but minimal water droplets. To emulate this, store them in a plastic container with a paper or tea towel draped over the top instead of a lid. You can also use a bag that's left open, but if you choose this route, reuse one, gallon-size zip-top bag to minimize waste. (By the same token, if your greens came in a clamshell, just snip the lid off and use that.) Be sure to fill your bag or container loosely, as packing them tightly will bruise the leaves, making them more susceptible to rotting. 

In a Towel
There are a lot of fans of this method out there, in which you wrap your greens in a towel, and keep the roll in the fridge. (A tea towel would also work.) Each day, just grab the greens you need, and keep the roll intact.

If you don't have the fridge space, or the patience, for this kind of operation, fear not: your greens will have a happy home whichever method you choose.

Do you use a method we didn't mention? Let us know in the comments! 

Photos by James Ransom 

Read More: 
How to Wash Greens (Without a Salad Spinner)
Down & Dirty: Dark Leafy Greens
Dandelion Greens Salad

Tags: kitchen confidence, storing greens, greens, how to, store, salads deserve respect, how-to & diy

Comments (15)

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10 months ago ascherl

I am a big believer in washing the whole head of lettuce all in one shot for quick salads any time. After a good soaking and spin the the salad spinner, like many of you, I formerly used to wrap greens in tea towels stored in loosely closed plastic bags, a method which works very well. However, I recently discovered that Ziploc makes gallon-sized produce bags with tiny perforations that allow the greens to breathe a seemingly perfect amount, and I'm a convert to this method (the bag takes up much less space without the towels). The bags work well outside the crisper and washed greens consistently last at least a week. Since they are used for clean lettuce, I just invert them to dry when I finish the greens, so I have been reusing the same box of 10 for quite some time.

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over 1 year ago LauriL

Has anyone tried the Forever bags? They also can be used for breads, meats ,and cheeses! They apparently remove the ethylene gases and really work on extending the life of not only greens but works so well that you don't have to make banana bread every week.... : )

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over 1 year ago Maggie Caldwell

I'm trying be aware of using less plastic and random paper towel waste, so I like crisper and re-using clam shells the best - also using tea towels instead of paper towels.
One question for you all, though: I'm in my second year of growing my own greens. Any tips on how often to harvest, and how soon before I use them?

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over 1 year ago Erum @ www.TotalSalads.com

I'm with Jennifer Ann! Wash the lettuce leaves, spin the heck out of them in my Oxo Spinner, and then store them in the spinner (in the fridge). Keeps them really crisp for ages!

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over 1 year ago Jennifer Ann

I like to tear and wash the leaves when I get home (they are usually damp/wet from the grocer's mister anyway), then dry them in my oxo salad spinner, cover with a just damp paper towel and then pop in the fridge - in the spinner - and then tuck in to make salads for lunch throughout the week - keeps remarkably well (thank you, Lynne Rossetto Kasper!)

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over 1 year ago clintonhillbilly

We usually wash them and then give them a few spins in the salad spinner. The moisture stays in the spinner but doesn't actually touch the greens, and we've had good results.

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over 1 year ago Peggy H

I just keep greens, even those from the CSA, in the plastic produce bags from the grocery. But there are two things I have found make them last a really long time. First, put a damp paper towel in with the greens before closing the bag. This makes a huge difference. Then, instead of squeezing out the air and clipping the top closed, like you would do for dry or crunchy foods, hold each top corner of the bag and flip the bottom half of the bag over the top edge once; then tie the top corners that you were holding together once like the beginning of a square knot. That will usually leave a lot of air in the bag - don't squeeze it out. Then before putting the bag in the fridge, hold the knot at the top and the seam at the bottom of the bag, turn the bag upside down, and shake the greens so they are loose in the and not all mushed together in the bottom. The air space around them coupled with the moisture from the damp paper towel combine to make them last sooo much longer. Even if they are in a grocery clamshell, you can add the damp towel and shake them up so the stuff on the bottom isn't mushed.

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over 1 year ago calendargirl

I have been using a product called Fresh Paper for several months and it is a godsend for extending the life of fresh produce of all kinds, and works beautifully with salad greens. I discovered it at a local farmers market and I believe Whole Foods stores sell it, though I now buy it in bulk from the maker online and give it as a present to everyone I know. It is a piece of paper towel, permeated with herbs, about 5 inches square. I put a square or two into clamshell packages of greens, and when I store washed greens in plastic Tupperware style containers, I toss one there, too. While a sheet costs between 57 and 63 cents, they are re-usable, last for weeks, and I figure I save much more than that by not throwing out any spoiled produce. Here is a link to the web site: http://www.fenugreen.com/

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over 1 year ago Gryph

Tupperware Fridgesmart keeps fruits, veggies and greens fresh for ages. Kind of spendy but you only buy them once and they really work as promised. I was skeptical, bought some on sale, and am now a crazy fanatic convert. (I swear, I am not a tupperware salesperson. I don't have the fortitude for direct sales.) Most of the time I find Tupperware a little expensive compared to the competition, but I haven't seen anyone else making this product and it REALLY works. I was amazed.

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over 1 year ago chickenX2

I'm a big believer in those green bags. When I get home from the market, I pick off any not-so-great bits and store them with like vegetables. I'm sometimes shocked at how long they last. In fact I just got home from a week vacation and some romaine I forgot I had was still crispy.

While usually wait to clean things until I use them to avoid the excess moisture problem, if I do store greens that I've washed I stick a paper town in the bag to soak up the extra water. Grandma taught me that one.

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over 1 year ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

chickenX2, tell us more about the green bags. I've seen them mentioned on other threads here, but have never bought or used them. Is there a good brand to try to find? Where does one buy them? (I'm not a big shopper, except for ingredients, which I purchase almost exclusively at small shops and farmers' markets.) Thanks so much! ;o)

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over 1 year ago chickenX2

I buy them at my food coop for about $1.25 for 5. I'm not sure what the brand is -- the coop might buy them in bulk. I was skeptical about them at first because of the cheesy infomercials, but they are the best.

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over 1 year ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

When washing lettuce from a head, I always wash the entire head, then spin, then roll in a dry tea towel the leaves I don't need that evening. I then unroll it, let the lettuce air dry until after dinner, then put it in a plastic box, with a clean retired dish cloth on top. I usually put the lid on the box, too, and it works just fine. I find that it holds up well on the bottom shelf, i.e., it need not go into the crisper. I do the same for herbs, by the way. It's the best way I know to prep in advance and store for later use. (Does anyone enjoy washing salad greens or fresh herbs every night? I'd rather be doing other things . . . .) I find that herbs, especially, if very dry, hold up for about a week or so loosely stored in a plastic box. ;o)

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over 1 year ago AlexandraD

When I get home from the market, I usually refresh my greens in cold water and spin dry before putting them in between layers of paper towels in a plastic ziploc bag in the fridge crisper drawer - it seems to work pretty well. But should I stop refreshing when I get first get home and do that only before I'm ready to eat them?

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over 1 year ago Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi is the Managing Editor of Food52.

You absolutely can, so long as you're getting your leaves dry enough before storing. It sounds like the layers of paper towels are doing the trick just fine!