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Happy accident - keeping salad greens fresh

For a dinner party several months ago I made Lynne Rossetto Kasper's Salad of Tart Greens with Warm Balsamic Dressing (from "The Splendid Table"), using the quantities in the ingredients list as I was expecting six people for dinner. The yield was huge, about twice what we needed for dinner, so I stored the leftover salad greens (undressed) in a big steel bowl, covered tightly with foil, in the refrigerator. I was very pleased to discover that except for the basil the salad greens stayed fresh and crisp for days and days.

Since then I have made a habit of mixing up a big bowl of sturdy greens, such as romaine, red-leaf lettuce, frisee, radicchio, parsley, and curly endive. If the greens are washed and well dried in a salad spinner, then torn into bite-sized pieces rather than cut with a knife, they keep for up to ten days in the refrigerator. I haven't kept a bowl of greens more than ten days, but on the tenth day the remaining last serving of greens was still crisp and fresh. Even the parsley kept its fresh quality.

What a revelation this has been! By spending a couple hours every ten days or so I'm able to have a fresh salad whenever I want without having to go through the effort of making a fresh salad. I always made a practice of washing salad greens and storing in the refrigerator, but never actually prepared the greens for a salad before I made this salad. It is just such a time savings to scoop out servings of the torn and ready-to-eat greens, and it allows me to spend more time on the rest of the meal. I often supplement the greens at serving time with a handful of arugula and torn basil leaves, adding toasted pine nuts at serving rather than tossing with the greens.

This is such a great alternative to having to resort to bagged salad greens. Making the investment of a few hours yields a such a huge benefit for me; just wanted to share this tip.

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  1. I've been doing the lazy version of this for many years. I buy Earthbound Farms triple washed mixed baby greens and just grab a handful or several for a week or two, depending on the package date. Wah lah! :-) BTW, if works for stawberries, too, if you wash, dry and store in a glass jar.

    8 Replies
    1. re: mcf

      I have tried the bagged triple-washed salad greens, and 1) they never lasted me more than a couple of days, and 2) they only tasted good when the bag was first opened. After a few days I found the bagged greens wilting, slimy, and foul-tasting. Maybe my fridge is at fault, but for now no more bagged greens for me. And that's the point of my post - if one is willing to invest a few hours one can get far superior results (and cheaper to boot) than one can get from bagged salad greens, with the same convenience.

      1. re: janniecooks

        I've had results similar to mcf's with Earthbound farms in plastic tubs, not bags. The tubs work so well, I saved a couple to store salad greens from the farmer's market.

        1. re: mpjmph

          I do the same with a plastic Organic Girl tub. I clean my own and reuse that tub. I put a layer or two of paper towels in there and the lettuce will easily last a week.

          1. re: mpjmph

            Rats - I threw my plastic tubs out just the other day because I could not think of a use for them except to start some seeds in there, which did not work.

            I was washing & drying my greens & then placing them in a damp paper towel lined plastic cake carrier from the Wal Martians, but the carrier was taking up so much room in the fridge, I just abandoned that idea. It did work quite well to keep the greens fresh though.

            All these tips are great since I think wasted greens is pretty much a problem in most kitchens. The tip about bagged greens going bad faster is a revelation to me. I always bought the bagged ones since they were a few cents cheaper, but not no more.

            Great post Janniecooks! Really appreciate it!

            1. re: cstout

              cstout,
              Try using them as seed starters again. It really works...just don't put more than 2 inches of good seed starting mix in the bottom. Have been "recycling" them this way for years.

          2. re: janniecooks

            I do much better with the plastic tubs than the bags, definitely.

            1. re: janniecooks

              I totally agree about bagged greens. I am going to try you suggestion.
              Any thoughts on keeping cut up root veggies such as radish and carrots?

              1. re: elevin9

                I always keep cut up radishes, celery, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower in pyrex glass containers. They keep for a good long time (there have been other threads on the keeping qualities of glass). For radishes, carrots and celery, I find they also keep pretty well in ziploc bags. I've never had any of these veg go bad stored either in glass or bags, but I find I usually finish them before a week is up.

          3. Does the container matter? I did this with a plastic bowl and plastic wrap and everything wilted.

            2 Replies
            1. re: melpy

              I have not tried it in plastic (don't use the stuff). I have a set of those flared stainless steel mixing bowls, and the biggest bowl (with a diameter of 13" across the top) is the one I used. With the bowl covered in foil, the greens did not wilt. I swear!

              1. re: janniecooks

                I am sure the stainless steel bowls & tin foil has something to do with keeping greens fresh, but we are not scientific minded enough to figure it out. Who cares about why anyway?

                Which brings me to the subject of garlic storage. I have been using this method for almost a
                year & say without a doubt it works. I had one of those copper candy dishes from the sixties & decided to place my garlic pods in there since it was just the right size to fit on my limited space counter. I kept this dish in a more or less dark area. Well, I noticed the garlic staying fresh much longer. I surmised it was a fluke & I just happened to buy very fresh garlic. Kept watching this & now am a firm believer that copper has something to do with keeping them fresh. Now am working on trying the same thing with placing onions in a copper fish poacher pan that I was crazy to purchase, other than the fact I love copper.

                So go try this & see what you think if you have a copper bowl or whatever to spare for storage of onions & garlic. Maybe potatoes would work in copper too!

            2. I do this too, except I use a big plastic Rubbermaid container. I find salad will keep several days this way but needs to be dried in a salad spinner first.
              I don't buy the bagged salads as I find they have an off taste and don't last more than a day in the fridge after opening.

              1 Reply
              1. re: lawhound05

                Brand and quality matter. Earthbound Farms is pre washed and clean, unlike, say Dole. I've hunted a lot and never found a piece of dirt, bug or grit in EF greens. They taste great and keep well in plastic containers.

              2. janniecooks it might be the fact you are covering the greens with foil. A year ago a friend told me to wrap my celery in foil before putting it in a plastic bag and refrigerating. The celery last for weeks.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Deborah

                  I keep my celery for weeks without foil.

                    1. re: Deborah

                      The lazy way... I buy organic hearts or whole celery in a bag, put it in the crisper draw set on low humidity. Wah lah! Keeps for weeks that way, too.

                      1. re: mcf

                        On behalf of all Canadians I lovingly and politely enjoin all Americans to stop using wah lah. It's voila`. If I may also add - please stop pronouncing the r at the end of foyer. It's foy-a with a hard a sound.

                2. Wonder if this'll work for cilantro or parsley?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: arktos

                    I keep parsley for weeks, too, either standing in a couple of inches of water with a produce bag over it on my fridge door shelf, or in an herb keeper that does the same thing.

                    1. re: mcf

                      What does a "herb keeper" look like? Maybe you better not tell me because then I will think I need to buy one. Just curious.

                  2. Try giving the fresh greens a really quick rinse, say for only a few seconds under hot tap water. These will 'shock' the cells and they will expand. Then a quick rinse in really cold water. So the cells suddenly take in a drink of water then just as quick they close up. Then spin in a salad spinner then wrap tightly in some paper towels then into a Zip lock bag. Squeeze the air out of the bag. Put the bag in the crisper. The greens will last for weeks. Just remove the greens as needed and reseal the zip lock

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Puffin3

                      I have successfully kept greens fresh for weeks by prepping them ahead of time sort of as you outlined. And I still do that, but on some days even the task of cutting or tearing greens to make a salad and adding other veggies is more than I want to do.

                      So the intent and point of my post was to show how a fresh, ready made salad of bite-sized pieces of an assortment of sturdy greens can be easily prepared and kept for at least ten days, mitigating the need to actually make a salad at meal time, and offering an economical and far superior alternative to buying bagged salads.

                    2. Thanks for the tip! I have various methods that are similar but haven't tried this specific one. I will try it soon!

                      1. Thanks so much for this really wonderful tip :).
                        So, do you always keep it in a steel bowl with foil?
                        I'm on my way to the kitchen store to purchase that steel bowl tomorrow.
                        I imagine this technique is actually better, with crisper greens, than washing it right before the meal.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: latindancer

                          Latindancer, I always use the steel bowl covered with foil, as it's the biggest bowl I have. Since I discovered the keeping qualities I make a huge quantity, thus the same bowl. I guess I'm a bit lazy, I have always tried to avoid washing greens right before a meal, and this takes it another step towards convenience.

                          1. re: janniecooks

                            I'm a bit late on responding but ever since I've seen your post I've now used this as my method with greens.
                            I'll take this method over anything because, as you've noted and proven to be true, now I've got washed and very crisp lettuce whenever I need it
                            Thank you!

                        2. Every weekend I visit our local farmers market and buy "a mess" of greens of all kind: lettuces, kale, spinach... I bring them home. Stem the kale, wash all of them, shake the excess water off. And stuff them in terry cloth bags called "Salad Sacks". The keep fresh for DAYS. I've managed to keep kale and spinach for over a week and they're still good! I found the Sack at a quilt store in Fredricksburg, Texas. I decided to try it because I was desperate for some method that actually worked and it really does! I've made my own cinched bag and it does well and once, in desperation, used a pillow case and it also worked.

                          For celery and carrots, I don't clean them first. Instead, I keep them in the plastic produce bag, make sure it's folded over so air doesn't get in and store in the crisper drawer. They stay pretty crisp for a good long while.

                          I think part of why I keep veg so well for so long is that I buy organic and very fresh.

                          1. Tupperware fridgesmart tubs are expensive but they do a fantastic job of keeping fruits and vegetables fresh-especially celery and mushrooms.

                            1. I'm with Puffin on this. I take my lettuce, clean it and put in salad spinner but leave some water on the leaves. I then wrap in paper towels and put in a plastic bag and then in the veg crisper. Lately, I've avoided the plastic bags (trying to cut back on it), and it's still great. It stays fresh for 2 weeks. I've done this with spinach, chard, and all sorts of greens and this has been great. Agreed that the boxed spring mix never stays fresh for me and gets slimy way too fast.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: ocres

                                That's how I store greens whole, if you will; usually they stay fresh for longer than two weeks for me, depending on the green.

                                But the point of my post was you can ALSO prepare the salad in advance, without dressing and using sturdy greens (no basil, arugula, butter lettuce, nuts, etc.). Washed and well dried, torn not cut, it will be ready at hand to scoop out servings from. Kept in a stainless bowl, covered well with aluminum foil, this homemade version of the bagged/clamshell salads keeps fresh for me for a minimum of ten days with no spoilage, slime, or off tastes that one experiences with packaged salad blends. It might keep longer than ten days, but so far I have eaten it all up on the tenth day. It's cheap compared to bagged/clamshell salads, it's fresher, it's not treated with chemicals, and most important the salad is already made so it is CONVENIENT and a time saver.

                                1. re: janniecooks

                                  I agree! It is also a "green" approach to storage.

                              2. Omg...the metal bowl changed my life. I have not had the same luck with plastic bags. Now I always have a big SS bowl topped with foil & crispy lettuce.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: sparkareno

                                  +1

                                  Such a great tip. Thank you janniecooks.

                                2. I have had good luck with the large round Tupperware fridgesmart bowl. I don't have much "real" tupperware because of the cost, but this was worth it for us. The greens last until we want them.

                                  http://order.tupperware.com/coe/app/t...

                                  1. My preferred method is to soak the greens briefly in a big bowl of water, if the water gets funky I will dump it and refill until the water is clear. Then I put it in a salad spinner and !gently! spin it to rid it of excess water. The i get one of my Lock & Lock containers, put a paper towel in the bottom of it, and put my salad greens in there, if it's deep I may layer it with another paper towel. It works beautifully for me. Get them washed, dried, and sealed, is the basic key that works for us.

                                    1. I wash and dry as thoroughly as possible. Remove any of the red leaf lettuce and store separately, as this is always the first to "turn". Place a few paper towels in the bottom of a "larger" plastic container. Allows for less crowding, which means less moisture.