Soggy, slimy leaves. Sad, wilted lettuce. Just writing those words makes me cringe. It’s frustrating to waste food, and leafy greens tend to go bad quickly. A few days in the fridge and into the garbage they go.
Lettuce help (sorry, I couldn’t help myself!). These expert tips will keep your lettuce crisp and delicious for a week (or longer).
1. Remove Offenders
When you get home from the store, pick through the bag and remove any leaves that are damaged, wilted, damp or slimy. For head lettuce, remove any outer leaves that look damaged. This limits the moisture left behind, extending the life of the rest of the greens.
2. Don’t Wash or Cut Head Lettuce
Loose leaves can last seven to 10 days when properly stored, but head lettuce lasts much longer than that. Left intact and unwashed, head lettuce, like romaine or iceberg, will last one to three weeks in the fridge. Just cut off the ends and store them in the crisper drawer with paper towels to absorb moisture. Save the washing and chopping until you’re ready to use them.
3. Protect Your Lettuce
Lettuce bruises pretty easily, and these brown spots are an invitation for bacteria buildup. What happens next? A gross, slimy texture on your once healthy greens. Prevent bruising by gently placing your greens in a spinner (without cramming them in) and carefully spinning lettuce dry. Using a storage container that has hard sides (or making sure your plastic bag is on top of other produce in the crisper) will further prevent bruising.
4. Keep Lettuce Away From Fruits
High-ethylene fruits (think pears, avocados, apples, tomatoes, kiwis and cantaloupe) release gases as they ripen, causing other produce to age prematurely. Keep these fruits away from the lettuce to keep your greens fresh and crisp.
5. Keep ’em Dry (but Not Too Dry) with Some Airflow (but Not Too Much)
Lettuces need moisture and airflow to stay crisp, but too much of either causes sad, wilted greens. After washing your lettuce leaves, spin them dry and place the slightly damp greens in a container. A container is best, but you can use a plastic bag if you keep a corner open (to allow some airflow in). Add a few paper towels to absorb excess moisture and you’ll be able to store these greens for seven to 10 days. Replace the paper towels every few days if they get too damp.
6. Revive It
Even if you do everything right, your lettuce might wilt a bit. Crisp it up by soaking cut lettuce in ice water for a few minutes. Then spin dry as you normally would. This is great for slightly wilted lettuce. But when in doubt, toss it out—especially if it smells bad, looks gross or feels slimy.