Saturday, June 30, 2012

Here's a little housekeeping tip

How do you store green leafy vegetables in the fridge so they don't go slimy?

I love salads and have been buying some of the weird Italian salad greens I've never heard of before and some of them are really good. Trouble is, when you're buying fresh greens at the farmer's market here on Thursday mornings, they always assume you're buying for a family of ten and the veg often comes in huge bunches. It only costs 50 cents or so for an enormous bundle of incredibly tasty and fresh rughetta, but there is no way at all I'm going to be able to get through that much of it before it turns to a bag of slime in the fridge. And the farmers will be quite visibly annoyed with you if you only buy enough for one person. I can understand it; I think the plastic bag probably costs more than the produce if they sell it in such small quantities.

So, I invariably bring home more than I can possibly use and, sure enough, I always end up tossing a lot of it. Lately, I've been making compost in a bin on the balcony, so a lot of it goes there, but still...

The reason fruit and veg, especially green leaf vegetables like lettuce, spinach and rughetta goes slimy is that it all throws off a lot of moisture as it sits in the fridge. You are left with a dilemma; you have to wrap it to keep it from going limp and eventually drying out, but the plastic doesn't breathe and when the greenery starts throwing off moisture, it bounces back onto the surface and makes it go all nasty very quickly.

As soon as you bring the greens home from the market, take a little extra time to prepare them so you can store it all ready to use immediately. You want it to be prepared to the point where you can just grab it and toss it into a salad bowl. This will make you a lot more eager to eat salad (good!) because most of the prep is already done and will avoid the thought, "Oh, I'd love to eat salad tonight, but it's sooo much work."

First thing you do when you get the groceries home, especially if you've bought a bag of salad greens or spinach from the supermarket, is take it out of the sealed plastic packaging. Spinach especially is always packed way too densely in the bag and this makes it go slimy almost instantly.

Dump the lot into a clean sink full of cold water and let it soak some up. Give it about 15 minutes, and then swish it around to get any remaining soil off and drain in a colander. Go through and pick out any slimy or brown or bruised bits, then place the survivors into a clean tea towel and make a loose bag out of it and, aiming out the window or kitchen door, swing the towel/bag sharply to centrifuge out any excess water. Do this carefully without banging the greens around; you don't want to damage the cell structure because that's what makes salad greens go slimy. I find the tea towel method works much better than a salad spinner.

Then take the cleaned and dried greens and break them up into salad-size pieces. If it's lettuce just break up the head into about five parts. With spinach, only take off the stems and toss out the really torn-up pieces. BTW: never use a knife on leaf vegetables, always tear, never cut, and you want to tear as little as possible. A whole, unbruised leaf will last a lot longer than a leaf that's been taken apart. The instant the leaf has any cell damage, it starts to go nasty along the cut or tear.

When you're done cleaning and prepping the whole bag of spinach or head of lettuce, put it in a large plastic shopping bag, one that will give lots of room. Put a paper towel into the bottom of the bag, and then put a few handfuls of your greens, then another paper towel and more greens. Don't over fill the bag, make sure there's lots of room for the moisture to escape the leaves. The paper towels will absorb the moisture instead of it condensing on the sides of the bag and getting back onto the surface of the leaves. Don't seal the bag tightly around the leaves, but only roll it shut gently and place it in the bottom of the fridge well away from the back wall (where ice can form).

This paper towel trick can be done with any green veg and works on mushrooms as well. I've found it makes spinach last at least three days longer in the fridge and if you've prepped it well, it won't grow nasty slimy brown bits inside the mass of leaves.



Anonymous said...

My grandfather used that method for years (except for the pre-clean part) and his lettuce lasted for weeks.


BillyHW said...

I think I'll just try finding a good wife.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Naturally this post was not meant to be read by men.

Teresa B. said...

I always use vegetable ziploc bags after I clean and dry them. I still put the paper towel in with it.
My husband did it for me once... and he used a tea towel that was just hanging there and he never washed his hands! YUCK!

natural osteoporosis treatment said...

my grandmother also uses this method.