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May 5, 2008 07:20 PM

Etiquette when buying lettuce by the pound

Is it ok to split a head of lettuce in half when it is being sold by the pound? I mean, I would take a half head if some one else did it before me, but I don't know if it's cool with most people or the store.
I've broken off nubs of ginger or ripped a few bananas off the bunch before, but I was wondering if this practice is ok with lettuce.
The reason I ask is that I enjoy a nice salad with multiple types of leaves, but it's hard to keep fresh for more than a week, and I end up wasting a lot.

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  1. No it is not okay to split a head of lettuce, never, never. Talk to your store's produce manager and let them know you'd like it packaged in smaller quantities - maybe they can split it for you. But I doubt they would since splitting a head opens up the individual leaves to bacterial contamination and faster decay. Personally I would not buy a split head of lettuce.

    Many stores do sell bagged greens, or loose greens from big bins. Look for those.

    9 Replies
    1. re: janniecooks

      I think I would say no on splitting a head of lettuce. To me, that is like cutting an apple in half because it is weighed by the pound.

      To help with the storage of lettuce, when I get my lettuce home from the store, I take it out of the plastic bag and wrap it in paper towels or a kitchen towel before putting in back in the bag. I find that this keeps the lettuce from turning into slime where it contacts the plastic bag. I can keep a head of lettuce in good condition for a couple weeks by doing this.

      This is actually a reply to the OP, but it is BC (Before Coffee) and I hit the wrong button!

      1. re: NE_Elaine

        Interesting. That would not have occurred to me in a million years.

        No, I don't think it is proper.

        1. re: dolores

          It occured to me during the Top Chef episode where they had to feed a family on a $10 budget, and one woman was shedding leaves off of her bok choy at the grocery store to get the weight in under budget. I guess it was all just for show.

        2. re: NE_Elaine

          In my former restaurant we bought lettuce in bulk. Individually wrapping the heads extended the life somewhat. Cutting the lettuce into pieces and storing in cold water with quartered lemon also extended the life. Make sure to cover the top with a wet towel/paper towel.

          1. re: hannaone

            Good tip, I'm chopping all of it at once, which I think must be shortening the life span. I'll buy the whole heads and split them at home. Prep half and store half for later.

            1. re: jtpeters

              Here is what I do to keep lettuces fresh for a long time, more than a week, since we are only 2 in the household.

              For iceberg lettuce, cut out the core, pull off any bruised outside leaves, then run cold water into the core while supporting the head on the opposite end in your hand. Really run that water in between all the leaves. Then upend it core down into a colander and let it drain for about 15 minutes. Take one or two paper towels, fold into quarters to make a square and put the open core end onto the square of paper towel and store it in a produce bag in your high-humidity crisper drawer, core side down. Iceberg prepared this way will keep fresh for maybe two weeks or more, and stays wonderfully crisp. You might want to change the paper towel on the second day as the original one absorbs a lot of water and may contribute to decay if not changed.

              For romaine lettuce: take all the leaves off the stalk, rinse each one and stand on end in a colander to drain. Unroll and lay flat on your counter about 24 to 30 inches of paper towels. Shake off each romaine leaf as you remove it from the colander and lay it across the paper towel. Place the leaves in a single layer, side by side, cupped side up, across the length of paper towel. Once the length of towel is full, starting at one end roll up the towel and romaine leaves until you have a fat bundle (don't roll tightly, keep it loose so you don't crush the greens), and store one or two bundles in a produce bag in your crisper drawer. I usually buy the bag of three romaine hearts, cleaning and storing two at once, so when I do the third I know it's time for a new package.

              I think my romaine method would work fine for oakleaf lettuces, but other greens are best washed and dried just before using, like spinach, boston or butter lettuce, arugula, cress, etc. In other words, wash tender greens just when you need them, but sturdy greens can be prepared and stored for an amazingly long time without suffering loss of quality.

              1. re: janniecooks

                janniecooks, I never heard that method for extending the life of iceberg lettuce.

                So you can wash it AND store it without bagging it (I had been using the wet paper towel idea)?? This is a must try, thanks.

                1. re: dolores

                  No, it must be stored in a bag - I did state that in my post:

                  >>put the open core end onto the square of paper towel and store it in a produce bag in your high-humidity crisper drawer<<

                  I use the bags from the grocery store that I put produce in.

                2. re: janniecooks

                  Wow, great tips. I use a lot of romaine and green/red leaf. I'll give this one a go.

        3. No! You just made me think of that scene in "Father of the Bride" where Steve Martin rips open a bag of hot dog buns because he doesn't need all of them. Why don't you cook the rest of the lettuce? When I have leftover romaine I chiffonade it and cook it with green peas, shallots, butter, and a little bit of chicken stock.

          You could also follow janniecooks' advice and buy loose greens.

          1 Reply
          1. re: High Heels and Frijoles

            Yeah my friend thought of the same movie scene.

          2. Maybe dumb question, but I'm just curious how in the world do you split a head of lettuce at the supermarket?

            Do you do it with your bare hands? A la kung-fu master style?

            Or, do you carry a spare knife in your pocket? A la McGyver style?

            And, if you do use some sort of sharp instrument, what do you use as a cutting board or platform? The bottom of your shopping basket?

            This has really piqued my interest for some reason ...

            2 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit

              Hah, I was thinking more along the lines of ripping, specifically with romaine-type lettuce which has the broad leaves and is being sold by the pound. I think these coudl be torn easily. Stuff like iceburg is usually sold by the head anyway, so it doesn't apply. Sorry about being unclear earlier.

              1. re: jtpeters

                Ok, gotcha.

                Yeah, I had iceberg lettuce in mind when you asked. But things like Romaine I could see trying to "half" just by plucking.

            2. Cutting your greens with a plastic knife keeps the cut edges from turning brown. Here's one example, although I recently bought a 3-pack of verying sizes at my local discount dollar store: