Green leafy vegetables such as romaine lettuce and kale generally have a shelf life of about two weeks, but might only last for a few days after purchase without proper storage. The leaves should be crisp and colorful when eaten, but are prone to wilting, turning brown and becoming soggy, especially with prolonged exposure to moisture and air. Freshness of the greens is also a major factor in shelf life, so try to purchase greens as soon as possible after they're picked. While lettuce and kale look alike, they actually have very different storage needs.
Things You'll Need
- Salad spinner
- Paper towels
- Storage bag or storage container
Separate the romaine lettuce leaves by simply pulling them away from the core at the base. Use your hands to separate the leaves because cutting tends to bruise the leaves.
Place the lettuce in cold water for several minutes to rehydrate; this might not be necessary if the lettuce was misted regularly before purchase.
Wash the lettuce or kale leaves and spin them in a salad spinner to remove much of the water. If you don't have a salad spinner, shake them vigorously over the sink to remove excess water. Pat the leaves dry with a paper towel. You can chop the greens after washing, if desired, but while convenient, this reduces the shelf life because the cut edges provide more access points for air to spoil the lettuce.
Wrap the leaves loosely in paper towels to absorb any additional moisture while in storage.
Place the romaine lettuce and paper towels in an air-tight storage container or a plastic storage bag. Whether you are storing whole leaves or chopped romaine, it should be packed loosely in the container or bag. Storage bags are generally best for storing small amounts of lettuce to avoid overcrowding.
Seal the container tightly to keep air from entering and spoiling the leaves prematurely. If you use storage bags, close it most of the way, insert a straw in the corner and suck out the air just before closing the bag completely.
Place the bag or container in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator where it will keep for one to two weeks depending on the freshness of the lettuce at purchase and the sizes of the pieces stored. Open the bag or container and take out individual lettuce leaves as needed. If the paper towels feel damp, remove all the lettuce and wrap the leaves in dry paper towels.
Keeping Kale Crisp
Cut the woody stems or ribs from the base of the kale leaves.
Soak the kale in cold water for about 10 minutes to rehydrate the leaves. Wash the leaves thoroughly and pat them dry with a paper towel. Moisture is actually beneficial when storing kale, so there's no need to eliminate all moisture as you would with romaine lettuce.
Wrap the leaves loosely in damp paper towels. The moisture in the paper towels prevents the kale from drying out in storage which can lead to wilting.
Place the kale in a plastic storage bag or storage container. Store in the crisper drawer for two to three weeks. Take leaves from the bag as needed and rehydrate the paper towel if you notice the leaves are beginning to dry out.
Tips & Warnings
- Store romaine lettuce and kale in a separate crisper drawer from ethylene-producing foods, including most fruits and some vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes, green onions and mushrooms. Leafy greens and many other vegetables spoil faster when exposed to ethylene gas.
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