When it is fresh, lettuce can provide a cool, crispy addition to any meal. You can even create your own salad by ripping off pieces from a head of lettuce. But shredded lettuce can feel like a whole different monster.
We’ve all been there before: shredded lettuce sits in the fridge for a few days. Before you know it, it has started to wilt, become soggy, and turn brown. Unfortunately, storing it in the fridge is really the only way to keep it fresh for any length of time.
Thankfully, there are a few tips and tricks that can help you keep your shredded lettuce looking and tasting fresher for longer.
Keeping Shredded Lettuce Fresher
When it comes to making the aforementioned raw salad, shredded lettuce is the best option. It provides a good crunch, but you don’t have these huge leaves to contend with. Best of all, you can either buy pre-bagged or get a head of lettuce and shred it yourself with nothing more than a knife.
A good rule of thumb with shredded lettuce that is being stored in the fridge is that it can last about a week, tops. There is a method to this madness, too, making it relatively easy to get longer life out of your shredded lettuce.
After all, there is nothing worse than buying shredded lettuce for a salad and feeling like you have to use it right away because it may go bad. That’s not the way to enjoy it and you will likely end up wasting far more of it than you use.
For starters, lay down a kitchen towel across your counter. Make sure you spread the lettuce out evenly across the entire length of your towel. When you have the entirety of your bag across the towel, it is time to roll that towel up. Do it slowly to make sure the leaves don’t collect too densely on one another.
When you have finished rolling up the towels, then you need to tie the ends off with rubber bands. Lastly, put the rolled up towel into the fridge. Preferably, this would be your fridge’s crisper drawer or the coolest part of your fridge.
By following this method, you should have fresh, crisp shredded lettuce for about a week or so. If the lettuce came in a plastic container, you should be able to store the lettuce in that container, just use paper towels instead of a dish towel.
To do this, all you have to do is line the plastic container that you are using with some paper towels. This should help to keep the shredded lettuce crisp and fresh by keeping excess moisture out of the container.
How Long Does Lettuce Last and How Can You Tell If It Is Bad?
Generally speaking, lettuce of any kind can last up to 10 days if you store it in a proper fashion. Depending on what you plan to use it for, you can even keep it frozen for three months before use. Keep in mind that freezing lettuce is preferred for the kind with thicker leaves as opposed to the ones that will go bad easily.
Telling it is bad, meanwhile, can come down to a few things. First, you can bring limp lettuce back to life and use it for your meals or salads. Be careful, though. You don’t want to eat lettuce when it is rotting. Using your senses should tell you whether or not the lettuce is spoiled.
If the lettuce has spoiled, you will notice a few things. It will look wilted or limp and probably have some kind of rotten or rotting smell to it. There will be discoloration, something like a light brown or even a black color. For heads of lettuce, the leaves and stem will start to become slimy.
When you notice your lettuce has turned and doesn’t look great, it is time to throw it away. Besides, lettuce is relatively inexpensive. So, even if it goes bad, you can likely replace it in short order and inexpensively, too.
Why Does Lettuce Go Brown?
As we know by now, lettuce can go bad and turn brown if you don’t store it and handle it properly. Preventing this is relatively easy. When storing, it is important that there aren’t those chemical substances around that can cause the lettuce to go brown.
Primarily, ethylene gas is the main cause of browning in lettuce. Like any other plant, lettuce produces ethylene gas. You may be aware of large amounts of ethylene gas being produced when a batch of apples begin to go bad (those with apple trees in their yard know this to be true).
In small quantities, the gas won’t make lettuce turn brown. But if you store your lettuce near fruits that have ripened or are beginning to go bad, the leaves of your lettuce will begin to react to that gas by turning into a light, almost rusty brown.
Prevent this kind of damage by putting your lettuce in a plastic bag if you are going to keep it stored near fruits. Storing it in the fridge is a must, but make sure to protect it from those fruits (primarily apples and pears) that produce ethylene gas.
Oxidation is another potential issue. Think about most kinds of tender vegetables. If you mishandle them, they will bruise pretty easily. Lettuce is very much the same. Bruised lettuce can quickly brown. This is because there are enzymes that get activated when the leaves and cut stems get exposed to air.
These enzymes are what produce the compounds that give lettuce that brown color. This is the process known as oxidation. If you see browning around the stem or head of lettuce, it is just a matter of time before that browning will spread out to the leaves.
Handle your lettuce gently whenever you can and make sure that if you buy a head, you don’t cut them away. Break the leaves away from the core instead.
Storing Heads of Lettuce in the Refrigerator
While shredded lettuce comes prepared for you, buying a head of lettuce means you will have to separate the leaves from the stem. Refrigeration can retain moisture levels for lettuce and other vegetables but is only meant to keep them fresh for just a short amount of time.
Iceberg, which has tighter heads, will actually remain much fresher for a longer period of time despite the fact that they are one of the more tender types of lettuce. Keeping your lettuce head fresh in the fridge is a relatively easy process.
If you have something that has a core (such as iceberg or romaine), cut off the stiff core. Keep the stems if you have something more tender. When you have done this, break the leaves off of the stem but do so gently to prevent any possible damage.
Use a salad spinner (or paper towels if you don’t have one) to wash the leaves and then dry them, removing any excess moisture and then place them into an airtight sealable bag. Make sure that before you seal it off, you have removed any of the excess air that can get trapped in the bag.
Using this method, you can keep lettuce leaves fresh and crisp for perhaps three weeks at the very most. Softer lettuce may not last quite that long because it tends to go bad faster. Make sure you don’t stack other things on your lettuce when you refrigerate it. Also, do not fold the bag because this could bruise the leaves and lead to browning.
Freezing Your Lettuce
Depending on what you plan to use your lettuce for, you can also keep it stored in the freezer as well. This means it can be used for recipes such as soup, quiche, stir-fries, general cooking, and flavoring.
The first thing to keep in mind is that the thickness of your lettuce will impact the way it freezes. Thicker lettuces – your romaines or butterheads – will do better in the freezer than the thin-leafed variety of lettuce.
When properly prepared, lettuce can stay in the freezer for up to three months. Make sure you break the leaves apart instead of cutting them off of the stem. When you’ve pulled them all off, wash them and be careful while handling them so as to not bruise them.
Dry the leaves thoroughly. You can use a salad spinner or a paper towel if you don’t have a spinner in your home. When you are certain that they have been properly dried, place them carefully into freezer bags. Again, overhandling can lead to browning. Make sure you squeeze out the excess air because that will lead to browning even while in the freezer.
There are many different ways to store your lettuce for longer periods of time so you can use it when you want to.