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Jan 11, 2013 07:29 AM

Making fresh lettuce and leafy veg last longer.

I came across this method of extending the storage life of leafy veg. a few years back when could only buy them twice a month. Sink full of cold water. Add vegs and gently agitate allow any dirt/sand to settle to the bottom. Remove veg to rest on cloth and drain. Know the secret: Drain the sink washing away any dirt/sand. Fill with the hottest water you can. You may need to boil a pot of water and add to the sink. In another sink or big pot fill with the coldest water you can. The next step needs quick timing. Plunge all the vegs into the hot water and IMMEDIATELY remove with a spider or whatever and plunge into the cold water. Remove immediately. You have some paper towels to recieve the dripping veg. Gently pat away the excess water. Leave the veg wet. Now gently wrap up the vegs in paper enough paper towels to absorb some of the water but not all. A couple of dinners worth in each 'tube'. Then into a Zip lock bag then into the veg crisper. B/c you've made a number of tubes, say enough for a couple of days consumption each you don't have to unwrap the entire bunch.
So what's happened? Imagine you are a plant cell. You were brought home and stuck into cold water which caused you to constrict. Then you were plunged into hot water for only a few of seconds. This was long enough for you to 'open up' and relax. At that moment any water you happen to need to absorb you will. Now you have as much water as you can hold. Then another plunge into cold water constricts you again. Now you're full of water. Then into a crispy cold place to await your fate. In a week or more you'll be fresh and crispy. I'v keep lettuce using this method for a month.

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  1. Interesting but too much work for lazy ol' me. I'll stick to throwing it in a plastic bag or air tight container with a paper towel.

    7 Replies
    1. re: monavano

      Seriously. WAY too much hassle. Just use ZipLoc Veggie Bags. Pretty much doubles/triples the time before lettuce goes south.

      1. re: monkeyrotica

        Many romaine multi-packs come in resealable bags which I love. Those ziploc bags get great reviews on Amazon. I'll keep my eyes open next time at the grocery store.

        1. re: monavano

          They used to be widely available. Most of the stores near me don't carry them anymore. I have to order them online. Several other companies make similar veggie storage bags.

          1. re: monavano

            Lettuce comes in bags??? Definitely a cultural thing - most of the stuff I buy is loose heads. (I distrust the packaged greens anyway - many of the salmonella outbreaks in the past five years or so were traced back to salad greens packaging plants).

            Back to the topic: I don't do anything special beforehand, but if I have some leaves that have gone a little limp I put them in cold acidulated water (I fill the bowl of my salad spinner than squeeze in half a lemon, or a small glug of vinegar), let them sit for an hour or so, then drain and spin.

            1. re: tardigrade

              Where I live in the USA, sure lettuce comes in bags. Mostly romaine multi packs, excluding the salad mixes which are abundant and to me, very convenient. Iceberg is usually wrapped in plastic and other leaf lettuces are generally not covered or packaged.
              Do you really think that you can't get salmonella, e coli etc. if you wash at home? How many cases happen at home vs. the widely reported cases?
              I eat triple washed salads all the time. Love the pop it open and pour it out.

              1. re: monavano

                Same here. Iceberg comes shrinkwrapped, romaine in three-packs, hydroponic baby bibb in a plastic box. The pre-washed, pre-mixed arugula/rocket/whatever mixes get their own sprawling cooler with the baby spinaches and other salad mixes. The only loose lettuce is broad leafed romaine.

                I actually prefer the non-ziploc bags because there's no ziplock. I can stuff a big lettuce in there and tie up the corners.

          2. re: monkeyrotica

            Not if you only get a chance to shop for fresh lettuce every two weeks and you really enjoy fresh lettuce.

        2. That is fascinating...what a great tip. I usually don't have a problem using most of what I buy while it's still fresh but periodically I need to purchase lettuce in a larger quantity for a dinner or some other event. It kills me to have the leftovers go to waste.

          I am going to try this next time I buy a Costco 6-pack of romaine, knowing I will probably only use 3-4 heads. Thanks for sharing!

          1. Isn't that just parboiling (quickly, but still parboiling) and then shocking your veggies?

            I would just buy less, buy more frequently, and eat more veggies to make sure I'm getting fresh veggies each meal.

            1. Facinating. Love understanding the science behind things. Thanks. If I am fearing waste (big CSA maybe) I will try it.

              1 Reply
              1. re: debbypo

                You don't need to do the hot water bit. Just soak your leafy greens in cold water in the sink for 30+ minutes. It will absorb moisture back into the cell membranes and you can extend the life of lettuce by weeks.

              2. Anyone have a trick to prevent the lettuce from rusting?

                4 Replies
                1. re: TDEL

                  The best bet is to store with a paper towel.

                  1. re: monavano

                    My mother used to use a large kitchen towel.

                    1. re: monkeyrotica

                      I do that too! I actually have my mom's iceberg lettuce keeper. You remember, those green tupperware bowls?
                      I don't think I ever had anything other than iceberg as a kid. It was for salad, sandwiches and anything that required "lettuce". Now, I adore everything from mache to frisee to radichio.

                  2. re: TDEL

                    Don't tear the leaves off mid-leaf. Take off whole leaves at the stem base, then rip to add to sandwiches/salads.