Has this ever happened to you? You open the refrigerator to pull out greens to make a big salad only to discover a wilted, slimy mess. That romaine, iceberg or even prewashed salad mix can't be more than a few days old, but there it is — and into the garbage it goes.
Don't we hate when that happens?
Here's the deal: There are ways to make salad greens last at least long enough to be eaten, but to be truly useful, whatever we have to do to make it happen needs to be practical. That means quick, easy and reliable. That's why an experiment conducted over at Kitchn.com caught my eye and sent me running for a plastic storage container with a tight-fitting lid.
Here's the story: Christine Gallary, editor at large over at Kitchn, decided to put an end to the mystery and myriad tips out there for storing salad greens by taking the three most popular methods and putting them to the test. The goal was to discover once and for all if the way we store fresh greens matters in the long run. She used a large bag of prewashed mesclun salad greens for the test.
Method 1: Lay washed greens on paper towels; roll them up; and place them in a plastic bag, pressing out as much air as possible. Seal the bag and store it in the refrigerator crisper drawer.
Method 2: Line a plastic food-storage container with paper towels. Dump the greens into the box. Cover them with another paper towel and then apply a tight-fitting lid. Store the box in the refrigerator.
Method 3: Follow the same steps at method one, except instead of pressing out the air before sealing, blow a big puff of air into the bag to inflate it and then quickly seal it. The idea here is that blowing into the bag introduces carbon dioxide, which supposedly helps to extend the greens' life.
Here's what happened: After five days, Christine checked all three containers and was surprised to find very similar results. The greens in each one were still crisp, lovely and totally edible.
After seven days, the salad greens in both of the plastic bags were beginning to show signs of wilt, and some were even breaking down to the point of being inedible. But a quick pick-through rendered plenty of fully edible, lovely greens.
Ten days was the point at which the storage methods showed considerable differences. The greens stored in plastic bags were breaking down and getting slimy, much of them now inedible, due mostly to the buildup of condensation in tight quarters despite the presence of paper towels. But the rigid plastic storage container? The greens were still crisp, mostly still lovely and totally edible, save for a few pieces that would need to be tossed out.
What made the difference? The greens in the storage box were loose and never packed tightly, even from day one. The rigidity of the storage container protected the greens from being crushed or overly disturbed.
Having a plastic storage container in my refrigerator that's just for salad greens makes so much sense. I can see inside without opening it to know what I have and how much is left. When I need lettuce or greens, it's so easy to pop open the lid, reach in, get what I need, replace the lid and be done with it.
Most of all, I am more confident now knowing that I've generally got 10 days to use up what's in my salad bin.
I can keep romaine, iceberg or other types of greens in this bin, making sure to replace the paper towel on top each time I pull some greens out. It's easy and super convenient. I like this so much better than having to fuss with bags.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.