Don't Murder Your Salad!

(Or, how to save money on produce without really trying. Read on for the Magic Trick!)

Every Wednesday night*, people all across America unknowingly engage in the same smelly pastime: cleaning out the refrigerator for next-day trash pickup. Bent over cloudy produce bins, open-mouthed garbage cans at the ready, they perform their tasks with earnest zeal: examining each soft spine of lettuce, slightly wilted bunch of celery, one or two bruised tomatoes, hoping to salvage something--anything--to avoid pronouncing it a total loss. Soon enough, though, it's woefully apparent. No survivors.

Why is it that the smartest people in the richest country in the world cannot keep a head of lettuce fresh for more than two days?

It's not complicated. It's just that most of us do things by rote. We grew up seeing one or both of our parents/guardians/older siblings at the sink, rinsing fresh lettuce, drying it off, storing it in a tightly sealed container. And then we grow up, buy and prepare our own greens in exactly the same way, and wonder why, when we reach in the crisper the day after next, rust has taken over the neighborhood.

It's because we're missing an elemental fact: lettuce needs moisture and air to stay fresh. According to food writer Danilo Alfaro, the worst thing you can do is cram your produce into a plastic bag, basically hermetically sealing it. Likewise, those clam shell "hotels for heads" are only accelerating the inevitable. The best method to keep your greens green (and greenbacks in your wallet) is this:

1) Buy fresh. Bagged is ok, if you don't mind being stuck with a bonus round of less-than-desirable produce. What's the point of buying convenience when you're picking out albino lettuce ribs that you can't chew? And, lest we forget, e-coli seems to spread in these bags faster than butter on hot toast.

2) Chop the ends off the heads of lettuce. You won't be sorry.

3) Cut the lettuce into chunks and wash thoroughly in cold water.

4) HERE'S THE MAGIC TRICK: place the greens in a salad spinner, whirl until all of the water is gone, and drain the spinner. The lettuce will be damp but not wet. Place 2 paper towels on top of the lettuce and place the spinner on the refrigerator shelf. The combination of air flow, moisture and cold will allow the lettuce to stay as fresh as possible. You can also use a metal colander--this is very similar to what restaurants do to keep their greens green.

Any questions? Well, yes, just one: why did you throw out the salad dressing? There was still some left in the bottle!

*we say Wednesday night, but of course, trash day could be any day in America....


P.S. We happen to sell the cutest mesh produce bags! These are great for storing greens after being washed as well. Check 'em out!

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