Life Hacks

A 'Why Didn’t I Think of That?' Hack for Longer-Lasting Lettuce

Did you know to do this?

January 30, 2020
Photo by Rocky Luten

It’s a big week in salad news. Yesterday, author and TV producer Elan Gale exploded Twitter with his nine-part series on how to optimize salads in 2020.

Salads are, according to Gale, ready for an upgrade, as he advises his followers to mix lettuces, opt for punchy cheeses like feta, and embrace spicy and ferocious flavors like radish, jalapeño, and horseradish.

While some experienced salad eaters might find Gale’s message, delivered in an overwhelming amount of capital letters, redundant, it seemed to strike a nerve with some of the food Twitterati: Chrissy Teigen, Padma Lakshmi, Jamie Oliver, and even Whole Foods’ all retweeted his advice.

Check out the full thread here.

Gale’s Tip #2 ("You’re using BORING lettuces. MIX IT THE F— UP. Use some arugula, use field greens, use romaine hearts, use frisée. Mix all your greens together!"), in particular, struck a chord with me. I love to throw a bunch of greens in a bowl and let them do their thing. Arugula? All right! Romaine? I’m game! Radicchio? Righteous! Watercress? Uhh, yes!

I’ll be the first to admit that I'm a sucker for the convenience of bagged lettuce, and have found that the wackier I go, the better the bag. There is, however, the rub: A few days after opening a bag of lettuce, I’m left with a brown, mushy surprise at the bottom.

I know y'all know what I’m talking about.

Apparently, there’s something you can do to avoid this smushy situation! According to the internet, a little "lettuce fluffing" will make that batch last a lot longer. Here’s reddit user will-you- with the hot take:

Whenever purchasing pre-washed lettuce or greens in plastic clam-shell containers or tubs, (spring mix, spinach, baby lettuces, etc) open the package as soon as you get home and fluff up/mix the salad around. This releases any build up of ethylene gas (which is what makes food ripen and eventually rot when in excess), and allows you to pick out any bits hidden in the middle that might be starting to go bad. Many plastic bags are perforated to allow the gas exchange, but it’s still a good idea to make sure there are no hidden wet clumps or bad pieces in the middle of the bag. I do this with all factory-sealed bagged vegetables, as one bad apple really does spoil the bunch!

So there you have it. The one-step trick that’ll have you gorging on greens just a little bit longer. All the better to enjoy Gale’s advice with.

Do you do this with your bagged greens? Let us know in the comments below.

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Valerio Farris

Written by: Valerio Farris

Former staff writer at Food52. Current anchovy eater.

28 Comments

beezus February 15, 2020
I only buy Little Leaf Farms lettuces, a hydroponic farm in MA. Living in CT the lettuces get to my local grocer in hours, not days from when it's picked. Stays crisp for at least a week.
 
Chad February 11, 2020
I read that, with bagged lettuce, to blow a puff of air into the bag as you are closing it back up (I use a twist tie) - that the nitrogen in your breath helps keep them fresh.
 
DMStenlake February 7, 2020
We only buy those clamshell and bagged greens if we must as I feel guilty with the plastic even though it goes into the recycling bin. AND the space they take in the fridge. I’ve always removed them from the hard shell and wrap the greens in a slightly damp paper towel. If at all possible please shop the farmers market. I’ve noticed the greens stay fresher longer.
 
K February 7, 2020
I like tougher: greens baby spinach, arugula. And if it gets ugly--into the soup it goes!
 
Susan G. February 7, 2020
That is just so “Twilight Zone-ish”!!!!!! Two days ago I purchased a clamshell of Spring Mixed lettuce and thought to myself : That doesn’t look right, all squished in there with no air.
So I did just as you say , Gale, and transferred half of it into a plastic bag, fluffing as I did so.
Thanks for the affirmation that I did the right thing!!!!
 
Kathy S. February 7, 2020
Good info. BUT: The fact that you are comfortable with using "factory-sealed bagged vegetables" is part of the problem. Buy lettuce from local farms, if you can where you live. They will last MUCH longer than a grocery lettuce which is already old by the time you buy it.
 
Anita February 6, 2020
BugBskes
 
Susan L. February 6, 2020
I immediately open the lettuce when I get home and line my largest metal bowl with a thin cotton dish towel. I then add a few inches of lettuce at a time and allow it to dry out before adding the next layer fluffing the lettuce up as I go. I top with another thin cotton dish towel and cover tightly. The leaves naturally transpire (give off moisture) so I fluff and let the lettuce dry a bit every time I open it. This method will keep your greens fresh for a week or more.
 
Lisa M. February 6, 2020
I use paper towels to cover the bottom and top of lettuce in the clam
shell or salad spinner. Lasts around 7-10 days
 
FS February 6, 2020
I'm not fond of bagged lettuce, esp. the shredded mix type. Clam shell packs are not as likely to crush the greens but the lettuce will sweat. Like others have said, paper towels keep lettuce fresh, provided the greens aren't packed together. In any case, lettuce should be consumed quickly because it will turn soft and bitter with extended storage.
Also, bagged lettuce benefits from a quick rinse. Yes, even the shredded stuff! A good salad spinner will get rid of the water.
 
LULULAND February 6, 2020
When I buy bagged spinach, I dampen a paper towel, and wrap and roll slightly the spinach and it stays fresh a lot longer.
 
Sue February 1, 2020
I learned a long time ago - and it works for us - that after you first open the bag, to exhale into it before closing it back up. It keeps the greens fresher longer. Sounds weird, but trust me on this one.
 
Diane January 31, 2020
that's a good tip but I find lettuce still gets wet and black when stored in plastic. I bring mine home and either put the lettuce in a moistened cotton bag or in a moistened cotton tea towel. Remains nice and firm without getting black. Though our lettuce seldom last that long, I've had it remain a week without getting any black.
 
Maurina R. January 31, 2020
Also, a paper towel, or thin fabric towel, placed along the back of the bag to absorb moisture works. For boxes, place the towel on top, and store upside down. I can keep lettuce and other greens over two weeks using this method.
 
Connie January 31, 2020
What caused the romain e coli out breaks in the salinas valley and is it safe to eat bagged romaine? Worked in Salinas for 6 years and became aware of the on going outbreaks so I care. The contamination is announced and reported in the media but the all clear comes months later and is not well reported. And the recurrances are getting to be an annual event. No one wants to stay on top of this but to me this is more dangerous than the Boeing Max fatal software. What is wrong with California.
 
Michelle H. January 30, 2020
Why did you feel the need to curse in an article on lettuce tips? Saying fuck when describing how to jazz up lettuce just makes you sound ignorant. For real
 
Kevin B. January 31, 2020
I love how you put the word that you were offended by into your comment. Bold move.
 
MrsMehitabel January 31, 2020
100% agree with Michelle.
 
Eric K. February 3, 2020
Hi there, thanks for your feedback. I'd like to clarify that the writer was quoting Elan Gale's tweet, but we hear you and have omitted that part of the quoted language.
 
Beverly February 6, 2020
I agree. I was in a Barnes & Noble over the holidays and there were 4 titles that included the F word displayed on a table. It’s an annoying trend. Hopefully it will fizzle out soon.
 
jody February 6, 2020
100% agree with Kevin B.
 
Liz S. January 30, 2020
Yikes!!! I just do not buy bagged or clamshell stuff. Honestly, the packaging is a horrendous blight in landfill, etc.

I live in NW Montana for Pete's sake and have access year round to "bulk" organic greens via the shelf, i.e. there are options for greens with ZERO packaging.
 
Sandy February 6, 2020
Lucky you. Lucky you all,
 
Bev M. February 7, 2020
I'm in Toronto, I never buy clam shells or put the lettuce in plastic. I buy loose lettuce, the shells and plastic are an environmental nightmare. Keeping it in a bowl with paper towels (that are compostable) works for me. Besides, the stuff in clam shells is gross, and who knows what it's "pre-washed" in!
 
Liz S. February 7, 2020
Luck has nothing to do with it. It is the consequence of good choices: mine as well as a local population that adequately supports and requests good food as well as grocers who respond to those requests.
 
Susan P. January 30, 2020
I concur on the paper towel advice - after a fluff it extends the life of a clamshell load of lettuce by at least a few days
 
Eileen W. January 30, 2020
After opening the bagged lettuce, I pile into a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap -- seems to keep the brown at bay for a few more days.
 
Corj January 30, 2020
For clam shell lettuce, particularly Costco-sized mixes, I open them asap and add a few layers of paper towels interspersed with the lettuce. This allows me to pick out the bits that are already gloopy and really extends the shelf life by absorbing extra moisture. One of my pet peeves are when supermarkets don't store them at the proper temps / they are already wet and sweaty. Also bought an aerogarden this year and am already at my 2nd salad harvest.