Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I get a head of lettuce every week from my CSA, but they always go bad before I get to them. What can I do to stretch them a little further?

It's salad season and, especially for those of you in a CSA, giving your lettuces enough love is easier said than done, but with a little TLC you can carry your greens a little further.

The trick is to keep your lettuces cool and hydrated but dry - when you get them home it is usually fine to store them as is, in a plastic bag, in the "crisper" drawer of your fridge.*  I like a plain grocery bag for this, the drawer is key because it protects the lettuce from air circulation in the fridge, which would otherwise suck the moisture right out.

After two to three days in this state, you'll start to see a little wilting.  Leaves will droop and look generally tired and sad.  This means it's time to breath a little more life back into the plant.

A salad spinner is one of my most useful uni-taskers.
Chop your lettuce to the desired size and give it at least a ten minute soak in cold water, swishing it around with your fingers every so often. This does two things - it gives your salad-to-be a chance to rehydrate and let's any remaining earthly funk sink to the bottom.
Once this is done, lift the lettuce out with your hands or a spider or large slotted spoon and drop them into  a salad spinner basket or colander.    No pouring! That just deposits the dirt right back onto the lettuce.

Dry the lettuce well, via salad spinning, or laying out on paper towels or tea towels and patting very well. Store it in a zip bag with another towel, to regulate moisture, and go back to the crisper.  You'll see several more days of shelf life in your lettuce.

*The exception to this is when they're soaking wet when you buy them, sometimes stores or farmers spray their lettuces with water to keep them looking lively, but too much water equals rot.
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