Shocking but true, I don’t always have time to go harvest my leafy greens before each and every meal, nor the desire. And sometimes, I have to “cheat” and buy my goodies from the store (insert fake gasp here).
I like the cut-and-come-again method of gathering leafy greens right before I plan to use them because I am getting the freshest produce I can, but it isn’t always practical. However, harvesting or purchasing large quantities means figuring out how to store them for the longest time possible without them spoiling. Slimy lettuce just isn’t quite that appealing, you know?
The solution is surprisingly easy, low cost, doesn’t require bizarre specialized equipment, and has all reusable components. Super score! This can be used for all leafy greens like loose leaf lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, beet greens, mustard greens, etc. You name it, this will work.
Most advice for storing produce tells you not to wash first before storing because the moisture will cause the food to attract those lovely microbes that cause spoilage. However, leafy greens that get too dry become limp and equally unappealing. The trick is to have the perfect balance of both moisture as well as dryness. Sounds impossible, but not really.
Start by rinsing your produce in a strainer or colander, even if it was pre-washed. Allow the extra water to drain off by gently shaking it. Don’t be tempted to spin dry your produce, just make sure to get the most water out with gentle shaking only. Line a large plastic tub that has a tight fitting lid with a clean muslin cloth, or tea towel as shown in the pictures. I avoid using paper towels as they tend to cause the produce to spoil earlier, and aren’t reusable.
Pack your wet greens into the tub (not too tightly, but it doesn’t have to be super loose, either) and fold the edges of the towel over the top of your produce. You want the towel to cover it completely. Cover the tub with the lid and turn the tub upside down for a few minutes to allow the extra moisture to drip into the top of the towel. Store your produce in the refrigerator. The moisture from your greens will get absorbed into the cloth, creating a humid environment that keeps your greens from wilting, but at the same time not wet as to cause them to turn slimy.
Each time you take out some of your produce, make sure you re-cover the top with the towel and give the tub a little shake. This ensures that leaves don’t get stuck together and helps keep them from going bad. I have had delicate lettuces last for a couple of weeks or more (!!) like this, long enough for me to enjoy them at a leisurely pace. Once you’re done, clean the tub and towel and they are ready to go for the next time.