How to Wash Dry and Store Lettuce

Today’s harvesting and shipping methods have grown faster and more efficient, making fresh produce widely available even if grown thousands of miles away. From harvest to the market stand, produce is changing hands quite often and may easily be subject to bacterial contamination. For this reason, produce should always be washed before consumption. This not only removes dirt, but also harmful pathogens that could reside on the produce.

All produce should be washed with cold running water, including lettuce. The exception to this is pre-packaged lettuce or other salad greens that are clearly labeled “pre-washed.” These do not need to be washed again, but can be if you want to be extra safe. If there is no label, however, or if you are buying fresh unpackaged lettuce, it is always safest to wash it.

Soap is not necessary to properly clean produce, but you should always use it to wash your hands before and after handling food of any kind. This prevents bacteria from your hands from contaminating the food you touch. Any tools you are using to handle the lettuce should also be clean beforehand, including bowls, knives, and other kitchen utensils.

After washing your hands with warm water and soap, rinse the lettuce over the sink with cold running water (using the spray nozzle works well). If you are rinsing a head of lettuce, pull the leaves apart slightly so the water can reach a greater surface area. If you are rinsing salad greens or pre-cut lettuce, place the leaves in a large colander under the running water. Move the leaves around in the colander to make sure the water reaches all of the leaves.

Once you have rinsed the lettuce thoroughly, shake off the excess water and gently dab the lettuce with paper towels. A salad spinner can also come in handy to remove extra water from pre-cut lettuce.

If you are not serving the lettuce right away, it should be stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container. You can store the lettuce in a plastic container or large zip-lock bag with most of the air removed. To help remove excess moisture while the lettuce is being stored, line the container with a few paper towels.

Lettuce should stay fresh in the fridge for about a week. It will begin to wilt slightly before it begins to go bad. It will then begin to darken in color and may become slimy. Once this happens, it is time to throw it out. 



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