Leafy green vegetables are an important part of our diet. Ideally, we should eat one to two servings of dark green or orange vegetables each day. Greens like arugula, kale, spinach, Swiss chard and Romaine lettuce are good examples of leafy green vegetables. These nutritional powerhouses are low in calories, and they supply a huge number of micronutrients. Eating a serving of leafy green vegetables will supply you with vitamins A, C and K, as well as dietary fiber, calcium and iron.
The problem is, many leafy vegetables tend to spoil quickly. And while they can cook down to nothing when you prepare them, they take up a lot of space in your fridge. If you only shop for groceries once a week or every two weeks, it’s tough to get enough greens to include a serving each day. Learning to store greens properly can increase the shelf life – and it can reduce the amount of space they take up as well!
Storing Greens for Two Weeks
There are a lot of people out there who recommend things like washing (and even cutting) leafy vegetables, and storing them in plastic bags in the fridge. One greengrocer actually claims if you wash lettuce and store it in a tightly sealed plastic bag, it will last up to three weeks. But all of this goes against anything I was ever taught about storing fresh produce.
As much as possible, you should store fresh produce in your fridge unmolested. Don’t wash it, don’t cut it, don’t wrap it in damp towels. And certainly, try to avoid storing it in regular plastic bags. Produce spoils for a number of reasons: ethylene given off by other fruits and vegetables, excess moisture that promotes rotting, exposure to light, air or excessive temperatures. And of course, some types of produce are vulnerable to being bruised if they get jostled about, or if other things are stored on top of them.
1) Store Greens Unwashed and Uncut
So what does this mean for greens? First of all, don’t wash or cut them, or take them off their central stem before storing them. Anything that you do to add excess moisture or to increase the surface area that gets exposed to air and ethylene gas, is just going to cause them to spoil quicker.
2) Store Leafy Vegetables in a Rigid Container
If you’re going to eat greens within a few days of putting them in the fridge, this isn’t a huge deal. But if you want them to keep up to two weeks (or even longer) store them in a rigid container. It can be an old margarine tub, a plastic container from the dollar store, or one of those fancy produce storage bins with the drainage and humidity controls built in. The main goal here is just to store the greens loosely, and to prevent other foods from crushing the leaves.
Put something absorbent, like a bit of paper towel, in the bottom of the container if it doesn’t have built-in drainage. And if you are storing several layers of greens, just separate each layer with a little more towelling. Snap on the lid, and place the container in the fridge! I have even stored greens for more than a week in a container whose lid was missing. I just put more paper towel over the top layer of greens.
3) Keep Greens Away from Extreme Cold
Some parts of your fridge may be colder than others, and your greens are especially sensitive to extreme cold. Store leafy green vegetables near the front of the fridge, rather than in the back. The best placement is lying across the width of the fridge, so the whole container is at the same temperature. But if you haven’t got room, place the container so the thicker stem end of the greens is at the back, and the leafy part is near the front of the fridge. This also works for vegetables like celery!
Need to know how to wash your greens, once it’s time to use them?
It’s not as easy as holding them under a running water tap!
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Note: This article was originally published by me at Seraphic Insights, and has since been removed from the site