I am frequently asked about the proper way to wash and store fresh leafy greens. As you probably know, greens love to wilt and spoil before you have a chance to use them.
After years of eating a TON of greens (my husband and I buy 10-12 bunches at a time), I have learned a few tricks for keeping leafy greens fresh for as long as possible.
Don’t Leave Them In Produce Bags
As soon as we come home after buying greens, I place them into plastic tubs lined with paper towel. We reuse the 1 pound tubs that baby spinach or mixed greens come in. You can also buy produce tubs at kitchen and home stores, or Amazon.com.
To regulate moisture in the plastic tub, I place one paper towel in the bottom of the tub. Then I add the greens and cover them with the another paper towel before putting the lid on. I might add a layer of paper towel between bunches of greens if they are particularly wet (from the misters in the produce displays).
I have since switched to reusable cloth “paper” towels, which work great and they are much more eco-friendly. I bought mine on Etsy.com.
If you are only buying a few greens, you could also use a large resealable bag. Make sure you squeeze as much air out as possible and toss in a half-sheet of paper towel to absorb excess moisture. Leave the bag open about an inch or two to promote air flow. Never store greens in produce bags as they will rapidly wilt, yellow and get slimy.
Proper Placement In The Refrigerator
I do not pre-wash leafy greens. I usually cut the ends of the stems off, usually just above or below where the twist tie bundles them together. When placing them in the refrigerator, I always make sure the the stem-side faces the back of the fridge. Delicate greens may freeze if the leafy tips are up against the back of the fridge where it is coldest.
If you have problems with greens freezing, keep them in the crisper drawers, or place them in the door compartments.
How Long Leafy Greens Last In The Fridge
Storage times for greens may vary. If you buy them really fresh, they’ll last longer than if you buy them when they are just starting to wilt. Kale and chard will last longer than dandelion greens and spinach so use those the first part of the week and save the heartier greens for later in the week.
Kale and collards last the longest and may keep for up to a week or longer using my tub storage method. Dandelion greens and most lettuces generally last about 3-5 days if kept relatively dry. Chard may last up to 4-5 days. Baby spinach and mixed greens that you buy in bulk may last 3-4 days depending on their freshness and moisture.
Kale and spinach freeze well. You can buy them in the large tubs they sometimes come in and place them directly in the freezer (no need to blanch them). Most other greens should not be frozen since they are too delicate and may get freezer burn.
How To Wash Greens
As far as washing leafy greens, all I do is run them under tap water to remove any dirt or debris. I don’t use a veggie wash and I don’t use any disinfectant (as long as I am not traveling outside the United States). I wash my greens just prior to using.
If I am going to freeze greens that have not been pre-washed, I will wash them and then set them out on a towel to dry before placing in the freezer. Avoid freezing any greens that are wet or saturated with water.
These tips helped me cut down on trips to the grocery store. Greens never go bad on us, even when we buy 10 or more bunches at a time. Our biggest challenge with greens now is fitting them all in the refrigerator after we’ve gotten them home!
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Tracy Russell is the creator of the Green Smoothie Health & Weight Loss Program and founder of Incredible Smoothies. She is passionate about helping people improve their health with green smoothies and a whole foods lifestyle.