Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Keeping Lettuce Fresh

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There's nothing like buying 3 beautiful heads of fresh lettuce from the farmer's market, only to have them go bad prior to eating them all.  The advantage to buying from the farmer's market is the lettuce is recently picked (fresh), not loaded with chemicals (yummy), and fully grown so it's loaded with nutrients (healthy--store bought veggies are picked prior to full development).  The downfall is they do tend to get bad a bit sooner.

How do we prevent this?

1.  Fill sink with cold water. Place your separated leaves of lettuce in and move them around until some of the dirt has come off.  This is just a pre-rinse.  Also, if your lettuce is soft or limp, let the lettuce sit in the water for 20 minutes and the fresh cold water will make them crisp again!

2. Drain the water & refill a clean sink up with cold water and add about 1 cup of vinegar (or read this post for some other fruit & veggie washes). Dunk in the leaves & gently rub off the dirt. Place in a colander and let dry or put them in your lettuce spinner and spin like crazy until your leaves are dry.

The lettuce/washer/spinny thingy.  I LOVE this. Buy one. Now. 
2. Clean out one of your refrigerator drawers. Lay down your damp cheese cloth.  Damp, not dripping wet.  Too much moisture could actually speed up rotting. You ever see how the puddle of water in the bottom of your lettuce bag always seems to leave a big brown rotten spot? Yeah, you don't want that to happen.  If you don't have cheese cloth, just wet some paper towels, ring the excess water out and line the drawer. But honestly, you can buy some for $3 on amazon. No chemicals, no throwing out after each batch. Just one, washable, reusable, cloth.

With Cheese Cloth

This is what is looks like with paper towels.
3. Place your clean, chopped up (bite size) lettuce leaves in that drawer, but don't squish the leaves. Be gentle.  Fruits & veggies bruise, and when they do, it almost guarantees rotting.  No need to smash down your leaves to fit more veggies in the drawer. Gently place them in and give them room to breath.

4a. Fold over the excess fabric on top.

4b.  If you're using paper towels, place a damp paper towel on top.

5.  Be sure your drawer is nice and cool (place on cool & crisp setting).

What is so convenient about this is you now have a massive salad in your drawer and all you have to do it open it up, grab a handful, and put on your plate.  No cutting off just a little from a head of lettuce and then having to wash.  No plastic bags and pooling water to deal with.  It's quick and easy to make your salad now! No excuses not to eat one with dinner or pack one for lunch.  And you're lettuce will be fresh, crisp, and last longer than in that plastic bag.

What are your biggest challenges when it comes to packing healthy lunches? I'll address those issues in a post next week! Leave a comment below.

Here's to big salads and clean lettuce.

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