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Storing Fresh Produce: How to prevent heads of romaine from dying lonely deaths at the back of the fridge

Hey all!

My husband is a huge ChowHound and loves loves loves buying all kinds of fresh produce and coming here to figure out what to do with it. However, as a result we have bags of kale, chard, lettuces, shoots, and sprigs. In an ideal world, we would be wise in our produce usage and not push bags to the back of the fridge (which all too frequently becomes a romaine lettuce graveyard). However, this being reality, we often get ready to make a salad and pull out a half-forgotten uncared-for head of dead lettuce.

What I'm wanting to hear are some tips on storing produce. Do you prep your lettuces as soon as you get it? Do you trim your radish from their leafy tops right away? How do you store your kale and chard?

I have one friend who keeps her lettuce in a salad spinner in the fridge - that seemed like a good idea b/c the lettuce could breathe, I suppose. We usually just keep ours in the bag until we use it, and often several of the leaves have wilted by the time we go to use it.

Thanks for your help!

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  1. I've found, with romaine even more than iceberg (iceberg is not MY choice), that the old wet paper towel trick does the job. I cut off the hard bottom, release all the leaves, and put one wet paper towel on the top and one on the bottom of a clear plastic bag, not closing it with a twisty, but letting it breathe and, just by chance, not shoving it to the back of the frig. I reserve that for the plastic cartons of milk that recently have been going bad (what have they done to milk I wonder?) before their expiration date if I didn't shove to the back where it is colder.

    The lettuce keeps a week with no problem.

    2 Replies
    1. re: anonymouse1935

      A variation that my wife taught me; rinse the romaine well, stand up-side-down in the dish drainer, dampen a cloth dish towel, wrap the romaine tightly in th dish towel, stuff back in a grocery plastic produce bag, put in back of fridge, good to go until Y3K.

      1. re: anonymouse1935

        I wish this worked but it doesn't for me anyway.
        the paper towel stays moist but the lettuce goes brown or black or wilty in no time.
        I've wasted more plastic boxes of various lettuce varietys just from not using them within a day or two.

      2. I've found that the Green Extralife disks really do make a difference in extending the life of my greens in the produce drawer. I buhen at Bed Bath and Beyond but have seen them occasionally at supermarkets and at http://www.amazon.com/ExtraLife-Produ... t

        1. A friend sent me a big terrycloth bag that she swears by for keeping romaine and other lettuce fresh. It works pretty well, actually, but I wash the lettuce first, and if it's romaine or other head lettuce, I trim the cut end and put it in a bowl of water to soak up the moisture and refresh it. It's amazing what it can do for semiwilted lettuce. In addition to the terrycloth bag I use a Lock & Lock canister, they keep stuff longer than almost anything. Also, the Debbie's Green bags work.

          1. I take the lettuce apart, wash it, pat it dry, then wrap it with paper towels and it lasts much longer for me. I think two things help: 1- I am more likely to use it when it is already washed because I find washing and drying annoying when I'm feeling lazy. 2- Like others have said, the paper towels aide in the moisture issue. I use this trick with lots of produce.

            2 Replies
            1. re: maabso

              This is what I do for all the greens that I buy. In addition, I squeeze the air out of the bag and seal before tossing into the fridge. If you get really fresh stuff from the farmers market, it will last 10 days, sometimes more.

              1. re: firecooked

                Actually, you should not squeeze the air out, you should exhale into the bag through a straw, then quickly pinch it shut. This gives the greens carbon dioxide to "breathe" and helps them stay fresh. America's Test Kitchen suggests this and I notice that a local farmstand sells their bagged greens that way.

            2. i rip out enough leaves to fill my salad spinner, wash and spin them well. Then I take out the strainer thing inside with the leaves, wipe the inside of the spinner dry with paper towels, dump the clean salad back in the spinner (now strainer-less) and put a paper towel on top (to absorb extra moisture) then close the lid of the spinner or use plastic wrap to seal it. The romaines lasts at least 4-5 days fresh and ready to use. You might want to replace the paper towel after a few days.The red Kitchenaid spinner is very good for this method.

              For the radish I wash and trim right away when I get them and store them in a water-filled jar. they usually last about a week.

              1. For romaine, or ANY lettuce for that matter, take a slightly damp paper towel or napkin and put it at the bottom of a clear plastic bag. Take the lettuce (as is) and place it root side down in the center of the damp napkin. Roll up the sides of the bag making sure to leave the top untied and allowing the top of the bag to flap around loosely. What you've done essentially is create a little greenhouse for your lettuce with its own little water source and diaper. Now just go ahead and store it UPRIGHT in your fridge, and you will see that it will last a week easily, often times more. HTH.

                1. I just made BLT's last night with some Romaine we've had at least two weeks. I can't believe I made it to 50 without knowing this little tip (I use it for celery and carrots now too). Roll the whole thing in paper towels, then roll that in aluminum foil. Can't believe how much longer it lasts. DH just commented on it last night when he was putting his sandwich together. As fresh as the day we brought it home.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: AngelaID

                    Hi Angela. Just read your post. I, too, wrap my celery in the aluminum foil. Lasts forever; however, I do not wash it first. I wash as I use. Would this be the same for the romaine lettuce? I see where this is an old post, so I'm not sure if you'll even get this. Just hoping :) Thank you. Karen

                    1. re: hillbubba

                      I don't wash it first either. I do let it sit in a colander in the sink for a few minutes to drain/dry before I roll it up and put it away.

                  2. Do remove the green tops from your turnips, radishes, and carrots as soon as possible. They rob the root vegetable of moisture and nutrients. If you are going to cook the tops or use them in salads, store separately in plastic with a damp towel, as already noted for lettuces.

                    Use the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for its intended purpose. It really IS a better environment for produce than the open shelves of the fridge.

                    1. We saw these:
                      http://www.amazon.com/Kinetic-Premium...
                      for sale at Marshall's once and figured it was worth a shot - we almost always overbuy at the Farmer's Market and were throwing out the equivalent of 2-3 bunches of greens every week.

                      I feel like an advertisement, but I swear I'm not. They're AMAZING. Kale, chard, anything heartier lasts 2-3 WEEKS with no yellowing. Baby lettuces that normally get slimy after 3-4 days in the crisper don't even get wilty-looking for a week. I don't recommend them for fruit - they advertise that they'll keep strawberries fresh, and they do, but the strawberries taste cooked when you eat them... The small sizes are pretty useless, but the big box is always in our fridge.

                      Someone on another thread on Chow also recommended the following protocol: on arriving home, fill sink with warmish water and soak/rinse greens well. The warmish water will open their pores so they can absorb more water. Then resoak in cold water to close the pores up and store. Since we've starting doing this, we've gotten an additional week out of our greens - combined with the boxes, we've had times where we've eaten kale almost a month after purchase, and it's still good. Beginning to yellow by that point, but still...

                      http://strangeandyummy.com

                      3 Replies
                        1. re: thursday

                          I'm intrigued! But this link didn't work. What is the name of this product? Thanks!

                          1. re: KBrentlinger

                            The link worked for me, so maybe try again to read the entire thread.

                            The original product is by CamBro:

                            http://cool.cambro.com/Colanders_and_...

                            This is what I bought; it works very well, although I wish it were a bit larger:

                            http://www.amazon.com/Prepworks-Progr...

                        2. Spend as much as you want on gimmicky special-purpose containers: the factor that makes the most difference is that you are putting the produce into a container, not leaving it in an open bag. Any container or bad with a good seal will work just fine. Greens benefit from exhaling through a straw pinched into an almost-sealed plastic baggie just before whixking out the straw as you complete the seal. The carbon dioxide allows the leaves to "inhale" and extends their lifespan.
                          Plants don't take in oxygen, they extract CO2 from the air and give off oxygen.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: greygarious

                            The absolutely best thing you can do for any leafy green is soak them in cool water for at least an hour as soon as you get home. This will extend normal grocery bought greens shelf-life by weeks.

                          2. I mostly buy romaine hearts (three to a bag) and make a green salad once or twice a day. Wilted lettuce is not a problem because it doesn't last that long. I shop frequently and wash the crisper bin frequently.