Outside view of VIDA Building

Keeping Salad Greens Fresh – Science to the Rescue

Photo of a bowl of salad with bread. Photo credit: Dana Tentis

March 2021

If you’re cooking at home more and trying to eat healthier, chances are you’re using lots of salad greens. And chances are you’re experiencing the frustration of throwing way wilted greens that you haven’t used soon enough. Whether you buy full heads or packaged greens, keeping them fresh and crisp for more than a few days can be a challenge. Well, here comes science to the rescue!

Preserving greens is all about controlling moisture. If the environment is too dry they wilt. If it’s too moist, they get slimy. While your refrigerator’s crisper drawer can help control moisture, the most effective tool is a low-tech kitchen item everyone has on hand…the paper towel.

Start with an air-tight container. It can be a zipping plastic bag, a bowl with a cover, or the clamshell packaging your greens came in. Place a clean paper towel on the bottom and add the greens. Make sure not to pack them too tightly. The most important thing is to change the paper towel each day. If you don’t, things will get slimy before you can say radicchio. The air-tight container will prevent your greens from drying out and the paper towel will remove excess moisture.

Other suggestions

Choose heartier greens like arugula, watercress, baby spinach, and baby kale. They’ll stay fresh longer than delicate greens like Bibb and Boston lettuce.

If you purchase packaged greens, check the expiration dates. If you dig a little, you can score a package that will stay fresh longer.

It’s also possible to resurrect slightly wilted greens. Just separate out any brown, bruised, or slimy leaves. Soak the rest in ice water for about a minute, then drain and dry.