A salad with fresh lettuce and greens is a healthy addition to your meal. When purchasing fresh greens from the grocery store or the farmer’s market, a common problem you may encounter is how to keep them crisp. Unless you consume the salad immediately, you may find that your lettuce and greens have wilted after just a couple of days.
After reading this article, you won’t have to worry about wilted greens again. Here is our guide on how to keep salad crisp.
What Keeps Salad Greens Crisp?
Two main factors are needed to keep your lettuce and greens crisp, air and moisture.
Lettuce needs a bit of airflow and moisture to maintain its fresh, green appearance. It helps preserve the greens so that they stay fresh even when stored in refrigerators. Removing the airflow and storing the greens in vacuum-sealed packs will only hasten the spoilage.
Washing the Greens
Now that you know the basics of how to keep salad crisp, we can move on to washing the greens. Before consuming the salad, you must make sure that it is clean and free from any contaminants such as dirt or bugs.
Follow these steps to wash your salad greens effectively.
- First, remove all the already spoiled leaves – those slimy and wilted leaves are no longer safe for consumption.
- In a large bowl, rinse all the loose leaves or the whole head of lettuce with clean and cold water. You will notice that any dirt or sand that is on the leaves will sink to the bottom.
- Remove the leaves from the bowl and dry them with a clean paper towel. You may also dry them using a salad spinner.
Once you have washed the greens, you are ready to store them.
Storing the Greens
There are several ways on how to keep salad crisp. You can start with proper storage. To make it easier for you, we have provided a few guidelines on how to store the salad as a whole head of lettuce and as loose leaves.
When shopping for salad greens, you will commonly find whole heads of lettuce, be it romaine, iceberg, or red leaf lettuce. These greens are perfect for use in salads or sandwiches. Whole heads of lettuce will keep fresh for a much longer time than loose leaves, but you must still store them correctly to prolong the shelf life.
When storing heads of lettuce, you may either store them washed or unwashed. Just be sure to wash them right before consuming! Follow these steps to keep them crisp while stored.
- Remove any wilted leaves from the lettuce head.
- Wrap the whole head with clean and slightly damp paper towels.
- Store in the crisper of your refrigerator.
- When the paper towels get too wet, replace them with new ones.
If you purchased iceberg lettuce, the whole head would usually be wrapped in plastic or cling wrap. You may store this directly in your refrigerator.
Loose lettuce leaves or other fresh greens wilt faster than whole heads of lettuce. If you purchase pre-packed leaves and are wondering how to keep bagged salad fresh as long as possible, you may store the whole bag directly in the refrigerator.
To properly store loose leaves, follow these steps.
- First, wash and dry the leaves following the steps above.
- If you have a plastic container for your lettuce, line it with paper towels and place the leaves inside. Top with another layer of paper towels before closing the lid. Store it in the refrigerator.
- If you want to store them in a plastic bag, wrap the leaves with paper towels. Be sure that the plastic bag has a few holes to ensure airflow. Store the bag in the refrigerator.
- As with the whole head of lettuce, you need to replace the paper towels with new ones once they become too wet.
If you are wondering how to keep salad fresh without a fridge, these storage tips will also work. You just need to keep in mind that salad that is left at room temperature will spoil much faster than if it is kept in the refrigerator. We recommend that you consume the salad within the day if you will be leaving it out.
Freezing the Lettuce
Another option for the long-term storage of lettuce is to freeze the leaves. It is best to freeze lettuce varieties with thick leaves, such as romaine. You can also freeze other greens like kale or spinach. We recommend that you only freeze lettuce that you plan on using for smoothies, blends, or stews. If you will be using your lettuce for salads, it is better to use fresh leaves, not frozen ones.
To freeze lettuce leaves, follow this simple procedure.
- Wash and dry the leaves properly.
- Store the leaves in an air-tight bag or container suitable for the freezer.
- Place the container in the freezer. This can last up to six months.
Shelf Life of Salads
It is important to note that although these methods on how to keep salad crisp are effective, your lettuce won’t last forever.
When properly washed and stored, the shelf life of loose lettuce leaves is from 7-10 days. For whole lettuce heads, it can last up to 3 weeks. Other popular salad greens like kale, spinach, and arugula can last up to 5 days.
To increase the shelf life of your leaves, you can also store them away from ethylene fruits such as apples, avocados, and tomatoes. These fruits release gases that affect fresh green leaves, making them ripen faster.
If you notice that the leaves have become wilted, soggy, or if you are unsure if the leaves are still safe for consumption, it is best to throw them out.
Can Salads Become Crisp Again After Wilting?
When the recommended storage techniques are not used properly, you may notice that your lettuce leaves start to wilt after just a couple of days. If this happens, you can revive your lettuce with this simple technique.
- Remove the lettuce from its storage container.
- Fill a large bowl with ice water.
- Soak the lettuce leaves in the bowl for 3-5 minutes.
- Dry the leaves with clean paper towels or using a salad spinner. You now have crisp leaves.
- Properly store the leaves or consume them immediately.
Learning how to keep salad crisp is a simple process. Be sure to follow our step-by-step guide so you will always be able to enjoy fresh, crisp salad greens. Developing a habit of proper washing, drying, and storing your fresh produce will be highly beneficial to your health and wellbeing.