keeping lettuce fresh
May 26, 2004 6:49 PM   Subscribe

When I buy bagged lettuce it always seems to go bad before the expiration date. How can I keep it fresh?

I Googled and found the optimal temperature (34 degrees), but should I put it in a ziploc bag once I open it, store it in the veggie drawer. Use high humidity or low humidity setting for the drawer?
posted by Frank Grimes to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Also, pop holes in the bag so that the condensation can escape a bit, and thus, not just hang out and rot the lettuce.
posted by headspace at 6:58 PM on May 26, 2004

I usually wrap my fresh lettuce in a humid cloth and put it into the lower compartment of fridge, the place were usually (?) people store vegetables. It seems to work.

As for the bagged lettuces I dunno : I understand that some stores sell vegetables (at otrageous high prices, at least for me) in sealed bags in which a modified "air" (atmosphere) replaces normal air so that the vegetable doesn't spoil quickly.

Intra question: does the atmosphere modification alter tastes or some qualities of the vegetable ? Anybody knows ?
posted by elpapacito at 7:39 PM on May 26, 2004

I used to think that "pillow packs" were a good thing but am now convinced they're evil. The lettuce is probably already well past its prime by the time you buy it, with its nutritional value (and taste) compromised by the anti-bacterial treatments and modified atmosphere packaging. Not to mention the exorbitant costs and increase in plastic waste that this convenience food causes.
posted by cbrody at 7:45 PM on May 26, 2004

Anti bacterial treatement ? I knew apples and oranges are waxed, but I didn't know that packed lettuces had bacterial treatement. Scary stuff.
posted by elpapacito at 7:52 PM on May 26, 2004

holy crap, cbrody- that's a great link!
posted by mkultra at 8:25 PM on May 26, 2004

posted by stbalbach at 9:41 PM on May 26, 2004

Frank Grimes, you could always reconsider the variety of lettuce you are buying, as all different leafy greens stay fresh at inconsistent rates.

I had the same problem as you (as i eat out frequently, leaving my home food to rot) until i found frissee, which is a very "dry" lettuce. It's amazing as a base for salads because it doesn't have a very distinct or overpowering taste. It has a nice crunch, and holds dressings very well. And it stays fresh and non wilted for like 3+ weeks in your refrigerator. I'm guessing the low water content of the leaf aids the structure? Give it a try!
posted by naxosaxur at 9:41 PM on May 26, 2004

I just discovered buying "hearts of romaine" in the market. Yes you have to chop it but it takes 30 seconds and the taste is shockingly better than the bags o salad. I will never go back.

(My all time favorite is frisee, especially done as frisee au lardons, but you can never find it around here.)
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:46 PM on May 26, 2004

"...pop holes in the bag so that the condensation can escape a bit, and thus, not just hang out and rot the lettuce."

I've had better luck putting it in a ZiplocĀ® bag and squeezing all the air out, then just storing it in the vegetable drawer in the refrigerator. Air seems to be the enemy where lettuce is concerned.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:09 PM on May 26, 2004

Wrap the lettuce in paper towels, and keep it in an open plastic bag. The paper towels seem to wick away excess moisture, while keeping things nicely damp.
posted by jpburns at 5:05 AM on May 27, 2004

I buy romaine, tear off the whole leaves or slice it, wash it really well, spin it dry or pat it with lots of paper towels, and put it all in a big Ziploc bag in the vegetable drawer. Stays fresh for quite a while that way - 1 to 2 weeks.

If you must buy pre-packaged lettuce, ALWAYS take it out of the bag and wash it very well before eating it, even if it says it's pre-washed. The few times I've bought bagged lettuce it kept longer if I didn't keep it in its own bag.
posted by Melinika at 7:59 AM on May 27, 2004

We buy huge bags of salad at Costco. In order to keep it from going rotten within a few days, we take it out of the plastic bag, put it in a large tupperware bowl, and place a couple of paper towels in the bowl. We replace the paper towel about once a day, or every other day, depending on how often we open the bowl.

I have to admit, though, after about the third or fourth day, the salad becomes a bit desiccated, and less tasty.
posted by vignettist at 9:15 AM on May 27, 2004

Er... one could just buy smaller lettuce and eat it faster...
posted by five fresh fish at 9:40 AM on May 27, 2004

Or you could attempt to plant a garden. Window box, fire escape, rooftop, patio, backyard or community garden plots.

It has been quite a few years, but it really does taste better, especially with the dirt and bugs and all.

Excellent link cbrody. I'm just not so hungry any more.

This sort of thing really illuminates how much of the world's "food problem" really is simply a product of profiteering and distribution issues.
posted by loquacious at 6:02 PM on May 27, 2004

Fresh lettuce stays fresh far, far longer than bagged lettuce. And it's cheaper. So where I'd expect a bag of salad to last three days, a whole fresh lettuce can last up to two weeks. Nature knows what's best!
posted by skylar at 2:05 AM on May 28, 2004

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