The season for fresh, local greens is in full swing and I am buying loads of Romaine, Arugula, Kale and Bibb at the farmer’s market these days. Like most people I know, I don’t view lettuce as a strictly seasonal vegetable. It is one of the few things that I will happily buy at the store in the colder months. I simply do my best to select the healthiest organic variety on the shelf and make sure that none of it goes to waste. Whether I buy my lettuce at the store or at the market, I always do the same thing when I bring it home. I follow these four simple steps for cleaning and storing to ensure they will stay crunchy and fresh for us to enjoy:
1. Trim: Cut the bottom of the head of lettuce off so that the leaves can separate. If any of the outer leaves are rotten or torn pull them away from the lettuce and discard. I usually end up discarding the largest outer leaves since they are the most bruised from traveling.
2. Wash: To wash your greens, fill a clean sink a few inches deep with lukewarm water. Peel your lettuce leaves apart down to the core and place them all in the water. Use clean hands to submerge the greens and gently swish them around. The purpose of this is to shake loose any dirt or bugs that might be in the crevices. Drain the water and refill the sink again. Repeat procedure until the water the lettuce is being washed in remains completely clear.
3. Dry: Gently shakes leaves to drip dry then place them in a salad spinner. Pulse spinner until as much excess water as possible is off the lettuce. Remove leaves and place them on a clean, dry kitchen towel or paper towel in a single layer. If you don’t have a salad spinner, gently wrap the layers in paper towels or kitchen towels until they are completely dry. Then place them on fresh, dry kitchen or paper towel and proceed as instructed below.
4. Roll: Once the leaves are lined up on the towel gently roll it. It should be a little bit loose so that the leaves don’t get crush, but tight enough so that they don’t fall out. Place this roll in your refrigerator, preferably in one of the crisper drawers, until you are ready to use it.
Romaine, Arugula, Kale and Bibb lettuce should last in the refrigerator for up to 4 days when stored properly. After that the greens may become bitter and dehydrated. Happy Lettuce Season!