It used to be the case that half the lettuce I bought wound up in the compost bin and not in my salad bowl. Once I got a tad less lazy and learned how to prep lettuce for optimal storage, I found it kept longer—in some cases, nearly a few weeks!
Here’s how you can do the same and feed your belly, not your trash can.
Oxygen and Moisture Are the Enemies of Lettuce
Oxygen and excess moisture are the two biggest factors in lettuce rotting. Get your lettuce dry and seal it well to keep oxygen out, and you’ll be surprised at how long it will keep.
For Starters, Buy Fresh Lettuce
Make sure you’re buying fresh lettuce in the first place. Examine the lettuce; if it’s slimy in spots or tired and brown, don’t buy it. When you buy packages of lettuce, look at the bottom of the bag or container, too—that’s usually where leaves get slimy first.
Lettuce that’s sold loose, by the head, gets sprayed down with water periodically at the grocery store. Sometimes you pick a head and it’s dripping wet! If there are paper towels at the grocery store, wrap the lettuce well before you bring it home. Lettuce from a farmer’s market is usually a lot fresher and not nearly as wet.
Prep Lettuce for Storage
The number one key to having lettuce stay fresh for days is keeping it dry. For that to work, you’ve got to deal with the lettuce as soon as you get home from the store. Don’t give in to the temptation to just cram it in the fridge straight from your grocery bag, because that’s a recipe for rotten lettuce.
Once you get it home, remove any twisty ties or rubber bands, which can bruise the lettuce, and discard any damaged leaves. Wrap the lettuce in paper towels or thin kitchen towels. (We love flour sack towels for this.) Put the lettuce in a dry plastic bag, press out as much air as you can, then seal it. This minimizes oxygen, which accelerates rotting. If you prefer not to use plastic, try reusable cloth produce bags.
If the lettuce is prepackaged in a sealed plastic bag or container, you likely don’t need to do anything. These packages have inert gasses sealed in them that help to keep rotting at bay.
Store Lettuce in the Fridge
Keep lettuce in your crisper drawer, preferably one with the humidity set higher.
Produce like apples, peaches, melons, and tomatoes give off ethylene, which speeds up ripening and eventually makes lettuce rot. Keep your fruit away from the drawer where your lettuce is, if you can!
How to Refresh Wilted Lettuce
Lettuce loses moisture in storage, which can cause it to wilt. If it’s tired but not slimy, you can revive it with a simple soak in cold water or ice water.
Remove any clearly damaged leaves. Submerge the lettuce in the water for 30 minutes or up to an hour. Drain and dry it well.