- Salad greens, like lettuce and kale, can easily go bad if you don’t properly care for them.
- You should avoid buying any bunches or packages that contain leaves that are turning yellow or beginning to wilt, as they won’t taste as fresh.
- It’s important to wash and completely dry your greens as soon as you get them home.
- Wrapping your greens in a damp paper towel inside of an unsealed plastic freezer bag will keep them fresher and crisper for longer.
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It’s pretty frustrating when your salad greens go bad quicker than you can consume them.
Fortunately, there are a few ways you can store and care for these vegetables that can keep them fresher and better-tasting for longer.
Here are some mistakes you’re making that could be ruining your salad greens, according to experts.
You don’t check the expiration date when purchasing pre-packaged greens.
Always check the expiration or “best by” date when you purchase anything, especially greens, said Hannah Hopkins, chef at Besame.
“I always grab the bag on the back of the shelf – it usually has the longest [shelf] life,” Hopkins told Insider.
Read More: 20 foods that can last longer than you think
You buy packages and bunches that already have yellow or wilted leaves.
While grocery shopping, another thing to look for is the quality of the leaves.
If you see yellow and/or wilted leaves, then the package is already spoiling, according to Lisa McManus, executive tastings and testings editor at America’s Test Kitchen.
It’s best to avoid buying any lettuce that’s already begun to wilt, especially since greens that are turning yellow will not taste as great, said Shannon.
You’re not washing your greens as soon as you get home.
After bringing your greens home, it’s essential to wash them even if the packaging says the greens are pre-washed, according to Shannon.
“Washing them in cold water will make them crisper and more flavorful than eating them straight from the package,” she told Insider.
You’re not washing your greens thoroughly enough.
One of the best ways to wash your greens is by using a salad spinner, said Shannon.
“Fill your salad spinner with very cold water, then submerge your greens (making sure not to overcrowd the spinner), and move them around a little bit with your hand,” she told Insider. “Alternatively, you can let them soak for three to five minutes, drain, and spin a couple of times until most of the excess water is out.”
You’re not letting the greens dry before you put them away.
After washing your greens, it’s very important to dry them, said McManus.
“Any bacteria or other contamination on the greens that they may have picked up in the soil during picking and handling, etc. is going to thrive in a damp environment, and that will make the greens wilt and spoil faster,” she told Insider.
She also said a salad spinner is useful when it comes to drying your lettuce.
To dry your greens with a salad spinner, spin them and then pause to dump out excess water from the outer bowl. Then, put the lid back on and spin again to get the veggies really dry.
To ensure the greens are completely dry, Shannon told Insider you should spread them out on a kitchen towel and let them air dry or pat them with a paper towel.
You’re not wrapping them properly.
Once your greens are washed and dried, they need to be properly wrapped before being stored in the fridge.
One way to do this is to wrap them in a damp – not saturated – paper towel to keep them hydrated. This results in a fresher, crisper leaf, Shannon explained.
Using a paper towel that’s too wet can cause the greens to quickly mold or freeze.
Once wrapped up, they can be placed in a large freezer bag that’s unsealed or loosely sealed.
“The plastic bag acts as a barrier and assures that the paper towel won’t freeze to the shelf or drawer in your fridge,” Shannon told Insider.
McManus said you can also store your greens in a sealed salad spinner in the fridge.
You store your greens in the original package they came in.
Pre-bagged greens typically don’t last very long if you store them the way you bought them, said Shannon.
She told Insider you should remove your greens from their original packaging and follow the aforementioned methods for washing, drying, and storing them.
If your salad greens come in clam shells (plastic containers with a lid that opens and shuts), you may want to place a paper towel just under the lid to soak up additional moisture.
You’re storing them at the wrong temperature or in the coldest part of your fridge.
The best temperature range for storing greens is between 35 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Shannon.
“If your refrigerator is too cold, your greens could freeze and die. And there is no reviving frozen greens, as it damages the cellular structure of the leaf, which will cause them to become slimy, wet, and inedible,” Shannon told Insider.
She said the best place to store your greens is in the crisper drawer, since it’s typically not as cold as the rest of the fridge.
You’re manhandling your greens.
Whether you’re in the grocery store or cooking at home, it’s important to handle your greens gently, according to Hopkins.
Crushing and bruising them could result in sliminess.
“If you crush or fold greens, you accelerate their breakdown because you’ve ruptured the cell walls of the leaves, and they will wilt and get waterlogged,” McManus added.
You’re overpacking your greens.
Another issue to watch out for when storing salad greens is overpacking, said Hopkins.
“When storing, give them enough room to breathe. Bruising your greens can cause unnecessary moisture, which causes soggy greens,” she told Insider.
Pre-cutting your greens can be useful, but it may cause them to dry out quickly.
“Do not pre-cut any greens too far in advance of consumption, as they will become discolored and dry out,” Shannon told Insider.
In addition, she said when it’s time to cut your greens, you should make sure your knife is very sharp since a dull blade can bruise the leaves, resulting in oxidation and discoloration.