Help me prevent my red lettuce from turning against me
July 29, 2009 10:47 AM   Subscribe

LettuceFilter: I love those big containers of mixed small lettuce leaves - the schmancy type like this. But the red lettuce always goes bad so quickly! What can I do?

We don't have a car and it's a longish walk to the nearest grocery store, so the largest containers (~1-pound) are the most convenient. But then by the third day I end up spending half of my salad-making time just picking through it to eliminate the red lettuce that's starting to slime.
Is there a way to keep the red lettuce from turning so quickly?
Is there an easier way to search and destroy the lettuce that has started to turn?
Other tips and tricks and general advice for the salad-friendly?
This previous question is good, but my problem is just with the darn red lettuce, everything else is fine. Do I really need to treat the whole pound of mixed greens just to keep the red stuff happy, and would it really work on them?

If it's at all relevant, the quick'n'easy salad I usually make goes thusly:
-as much lettuce as I feel like
-shredded cheese to taste
-chopped fresh mushroom, tomato, cucumber
-dressing of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt to taste
Mix with clean hands, eat with gusto.
posted by Billegible to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Fresh lemon juice?
posted by heather-b at 11:20 AM on July 29, 2009

Best answer: Get a Tupperware (or Tupperware-style) domed lettuce keeper with the spindle-at-the-bottom thing. For a pound you might need two of them. They also have an oblong container with a removeable grid at the bottom for celery, cukes, and carrots. Both of these products (which I've had for 25 years) solved this exact same problem. I'm not a shill for the company, but they're the best for this stuff. You will not be sorry. Go online; I'd link, but I'm at work.

When you get the greens home and transfer them to the containers, be sure to immediately take out the "turning" leaves. The grid for the oblong thing and the spindle for the domed thing are what keep the leaves or whatever else you put in there from wallowing in the inevitable moisture that will collect.
posted by jgirl at 11:21 AM on July 29, 2009

Best answer: Based on a tip from either Alton Brown or Rachael Ray (I don't remember who), we take our salad greens, and put them in ziploc bags with a folded paper towel inside to wick away the moisture. This keeps our salad greens fresher for longer than if we just left them in the bag or plastic container they came in.
posted by ralan at 11:28 AM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Same thing along the lines as ralan but newspaper works too (I'm not worried about the ink but I haven't looked anything up) if you are counting your pennies. My mom taught me this.
posted by spec80 at 11:40 AM on July 29, 2009

Best answer: Be picky. The quality of the lettuce when you buy it is critical, I find -- if it doesn't look really fresh, just skip it. Every now and then I run into a batch that was apparently not well stored en route to the shop or something, and it slimes in no time and no paper towels or hand-picking will save it. For these purposes, your eyes are more reliable than the date on the package, too. Turn it upside down, seek out the wilt. See if its friends on the shelf are wilty -- if they are, suspect poor storage, look at another lot.

I live in the sticks and I like salad, so I buy two or three plastic troughs of lettuce every weekend, and being fussy at the supermarket has meant much less lettuce misery.
posted by kmennie at 11:42 AM on July 29, 2009

Best answer: We do what ralan suggested -- but not a ziploc, but an open bag, so they can breathe.
Also, if they're not washed, don't wash until right before you eat. Any moisture at all seems to lead to quicker decay.
posted by j at 11:43 AM on July 29, 2009

If you have any access to locally grown lettuce, try switching to that. I grow my own lettuce and also buy some at the farmer's market. I'm always shocked by how much longer even the fragile varieties stay fresh in my fridge as compared to grocery store lettuce, which seems just days away from full slime. I'm sure this has to do with how much time has elapsed since picking. It's not unusual for my lettuce to be just fine a week after picking.

One thing I do that seems to work well is to rinse all my greens in a salad spinner when I get home. I give them a good rinse, dump out the water, spin again, and dump out the water. Then I just leave them in the spinner and take single portions out until it's gone. It seems to be the ideal container for lettuce, as the interior is still moist, but the leaves aren't sitting in water - they're suspended in their basket. And it's pretty well sealed against the air. It's been working well for me - I discovered it by accident when I made too much salad to eat at one meal, but found it was just as good the next day, and the next, when kept in the spinner. I have this one.
posted by Miko at 12:40 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Instead of wasting paper towels, save up the silica gel packets you find packaged with electronics and vitamins and toss two or three into your lettuce bag/container.

After each use, leave them out in the hot sun for a day and they'll be ready to reuse. Or you can bake them in the oven at 250 F for 10-15 minutes. The silica gel in the packets is just silicon dioxide, ie. the most common component of sand.
posted by junesix at 1:00 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A combination of salad spinner and damp paper towel is what works for me, even with the delicate stuff like red leaf lettuce.

I soak it in cold water for a few minutes, spin it dry (I do the spinning thing 3-4 times), then I place it in a tupperware container with a damp paper towel on top. I have also wrapped it in the damp paper towel and placed it in a ziploc bag for smaller quantities. The delicate stuff survives for longer, and the hardier stuff like romaine and green leaf stays very crisp and green for markedly longer.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 3:29 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

As Miko says, if you have any outside space available to you at all, don't discount growing your own salad leaves - the leaves seem to last longer than anything you can buy in the shops and (if relative prices are similar in Canada to the UK) your investment in seeds will pay for itself in your first salad or two. And it's not (I promise) difficult to grow.

A salad spinner really is an essential piece of equipment as everyone says above.
posted by calico at 12:43 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Nthing salad spinner (we have an 11+-year-old Oxo much like the one Miko linked to that's still going strong), paper towels, and local lettuce, especially growing your own.

Do be judicious in how much you plant, though. I discovered that 12 plants is really too many if only one person in the household actually likes lettuce. But the plants come in 6-packs and I wanted two kinds, so...
posted by Lexica at 9:11 PM on July 30, 2009

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