Salad Greens 101

Some of the earliest cold-resistant crops available in the spring (or earlier if you have a farmer who has a fancy-schmancy greenhouse), fresh, vibrant salad greens are popping up now at farmers' markets.  That first, crisp, lightly-dressed bowlful always feels like such an extraordinary luxury after months of pots of piping-hot long-simmered root vegetables and squash.

These leaves tend to be delicate, and depending on the variety, sometimes a bit costly.  So here are a few tips to help insure you get every last bite for your buck.

Your lettuces and spinach, particularly from a farm stand, can often have a fair amount of dirt on the leaves and stems. Place all the greens in a large bowl and fill with cold water. Agitate the leaves gently with your hand, and allow the leaves to float up and the dirt to sink down. Carefully skim the greens off the top of the water, leaving the dirt behind. Repeat a few times, if necessary.

After cleaning, dry your greens thoroughly. I think a salad spinner works the best, but you can also lay them out on paper or dish towels and blot gently, and allow to air dry. Place dry greens in a plastic bag, layering here and there with paper towels. The towels will help absorb some of the moisture left on the leaves, that would normally make them start to rot. Also the slightly damp towels will stay very cold in the refrigerator, keeping the greens crisp. Change the towels after a few days if they seem excessively damp.

Blow a little breath of air into the bag before sealing tight. The carbon dioxide from your breath helps to slow down the deterioration of the leaves, and the extra padding of air will keep them from getting crushed in the fridge. Depending on the type of green, the leaves should be good for a week or two stored like this, but ideally use them much sooner for optimal flavor and nutrients.

And Refresh...
If your leaves emerge from storage and look a little less than lively, you can refresh them some and add a little crispness back. Fill a large bowl with very cold water. Place leaves in the water and soak for 5-10 minutes to basically rehydrate. Dry thoroughly, and either serve immediately or chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours until ready.

This also works great to get a few extra days out of fresh herbs, or for greens picked from your garden in warmer weather, that seem to wilt by the time they make it to the house.

Here's to many happy salad days in the months ahead.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

{ welcome! }
Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

{ get in touch }

{ what's new }
September 12, 2015
August 19, 2013
August 15, 2013
August 13, 2013
August 1, 2013

{ favorites }

{ archives }

{ currently reading }