Nearly every time I go grocery shopping, I pick up a bunch of salad greens. I'm not the biggest salad person, but I figure I'll be more inclined to eat them if I already have the fixings in my fridge. In the early days of my salad shopping habit, I'd just lazily throw my greens in the fridge and forget about them. Then, when I'd be ready to use them a few days later, I'd find they were already wilted and slimy—definitely not something I'd want to eat. So into the bin they'd go, leaving me feeling disappointed, hungry, and wasteful.
Of course, it doesn't have to be this way. After a while I couldn't stomach the food waste guilt anymore, started taking my salad greens more seriously, and found that there are simple things you can do to keep them from wilting. Rather than wasting $ 5 on spinach and kale just to throw them away, spend five minutes taking a few easy steps to guarantee they stay fresh for at least a week, often longer. From arugula to lettuce, here's everything I do to keep my salad greens crisp as can be.
Wash them right when you get home.
When you get home from the supermarket or the farmers market, the very first thing you should do with your salad greens is wash them. Don't wait—if you do, any bacteria already on them is likely to increase, and before you know it they'll be a far cry from the vibrant leaves you just purchased. As for how you should wash them, there's some evidence to suggest that briefly soaking the leaves in a bath of water and a small amount of vinegar will destroy more bacteria and keep them fresher longer, according to a study from the Journal of Food Protection. In my experience, though, I've found that a simple water rinse is always more than enough to get the job done.
And make sure they're completely dry.
Moisture is the nemesis of freshness, at least when it comes to leafy greens. If you don't dry yours properly, they'll wilt and slime in about half the time they normally might. Using a salad spinner is the easiest way to guarantee they end up completely dry—if you don't have one, this collapsible option comes highly recommend, and it's only $ 22 (you can buy it here).
Since I'm often traveling and don't really have the real estate for a clunky kitchen tool like a salad spinner, I rely on a low-maintenance trick that anyone can do at no cost. After I wash the greens, I gently set them on a dry, clean washcloth and fold them over until each leaf is individually wrapped up. Then, I take the bundle and swing it back and forth over my shoulder until all the water has transferred to the cloth and the greens are nice and dry. If this sounds too good to be true, I promise you it's the real deal.
Before you toss them in the fridge, wrap them in a cloth or a paper towel.
The fridge is a damp, dark place where fruits and vegetables go to die if they're not properly stored. Since leafy greens are particularly susceptible to death-by-moisture, wrapping them in a paper towel or washcloth before you put them in the fridge is a quick and simple way to keep that from happening. Alternatively, you can store them in a paper towel-lined plastic bag or food storage unit and it'll have the same drying effect. The towel is key, though—whenever I put them straight into a plastic bag or container without one, they tend to get slimier faster than normal.
And always store them in the crisper drawer.
Like a desert oasis in the cold tundra of your fridge, the crisper drawer is the perfect dry environment to keep your salad greens perky. You can even line it with paper towels and throw your cleaned and dried greens straight in to cut out the middleman of a storage unit.
Now, use your springy greens in these recipes.
Prosciutto-Wrapped Melon Over Lemony Arugula
Peppery, lemony arugula gives this summery dish just the flavor punch it needs. Get the recipe here.
Kale Salad With Chickpeas, Tomato, and Feta
Hearty kale can last a very long time if you give it the proper cleaning, drying, and storing treatment. Get the recipe here.
Quinoa and Spinach Salad With Pear and Goat Cheese
Your days of sad, slimy spinach are over. Get the recipe here.