Lettuce is one of the most resilient leafy green vegetables available for human consumption.
It is one of the many vegetable options typically eaten raw with salad greens.
Then again, like other vegetables, lettuce has a limited shelf life. It will start to rot sooner than expected if stored improperly.
How to store lettuce? Before storing lettuce, wash it clean and pat it dry with paper towels. Keep separate leaves of loose leaf lettuce in between paper towels and put them in a storage container in the fridge.
Alternatively, store the leaves with damp paper towels in plastic bags in your fridge’s crisper drawer. Avoid vacuum sealing as the vegetable requires air so that it stays fresh.
Read ahead and gather more tips and tricks that can help you keep lettuce fresh.
Are All Lettuce the Same?
Different types of lettuce call for varying storage shelf-lives, cleaning methods, and washing practices.
The vegetable can come in loose leaf form or tightly packed round heads.
Lettuce with loose ruffled leaves is just called loose leaf lettuce, while heads of lettuce are called iceberg lettuce.
Romaine and butterhead lettuce are other varieties, but they also have loose leaves.
Other varieties, such as kale and arugula, are sometimes considered lettuce because they can be eaten raw.
In reality, though, such types belong to separate plant families.
How to Wash and Dry Lettuce
Before storing lettuce, it is essential to wash and dry it first. Washing is even more critical when you intend to eat lettuce leaves raw.
Since lettuce grows in the ground, it will most likely have dirt, bacteria, pesticide residue, and sometimes, even a few critters hiding between the leaves.
Storing unwashed lettuce encourages and hastens rotting. This is due to the biological processes that bacteria and tiny visible organisms can trigger.
Heads of lettuce have tightly packed leaves that prevent the entry of dirt and residues into the inner layers.
To clean iceberg lettuce, removing the outer leaves that are dirty, wilting, or browning is enough.
On the other hand, loose leaf lettuce has more open crevices where bacteria, critters, and dirt could easily enter.
With loose leaf lettuce, removing the outer leaves may not be enough. Instead, slice off the core or separate the leaves and wash them individually.
Soaking With Vinegar or Water
If you’re making a salad, slice the leaves into bite-size pieces, and soak them in a large bowl with cold water.
After a few minutes, all attached debris will have softened for easy separation and removal.
Gently shake the cut lettuce leaves in the water until all visible dirt falls to the bottom of the bowl.
Alternatively, you could also add an extra ingredient to make sure your lettuce leaves are perfectly clean.
In the same large bowl, dilute one part vinegar in three parts water, and do the same procedure.
Adding vinegar to the soaking medium dissolves pesticide residues and kills off remaining harmful bacteria.
Obviously, the downside to adding vinegar is the aftertaste, but this can be remedied if the final dish is a vinaigrette salad.
Drying Lettuce Before Storage
After cleaning or washing, lettuce has to be dried before storage.
Excess water or too much moisture can trigger fungi growth and the spread of bacteria that can make vegetables rot quickly.
Although salad greens stay crisp and fresh with the right amount of moisture content, too much external moisture causes spoilage.
You can use a salad spinner to remove excess water from the surface of washed lettuce leaves.
Spin dry the leaves gently to avoid bruising, which can be another cause of spoilage.
If you do not have a salad spinner, gently pat dry the leaves with paper towels to remove all of the excess water.
Different Ways on How to Store Lettuce
Once your lettuce is clean and dry, you can start preparing it for storage by planning when to use them.
Fortunately, lettuce can be eaten raw or cooked, and it can be blended into purees and soups.
Divide your lettuce into serving portions. Then, store lettuce you plan to eat the same day in a cool place.
If you want to set it aside for another day and keep it crisp and fresh for salad greens, store them in the crisper drawer.
Otherwise, if you want to set portions aside for soups and purees, you can use the freezer for storage.
Storage box/room temperature
Again, remember to wash and clean your lettuce before consumption, especially if you plan to eat it raw.
If you plan to eat it in a few hours, strain the excess water using a colander and let it sit in a storage box at room temperature.
Keep in mind that the lettuce should be stored in temperatures 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
Storing lettuce leaves at room temperature for extended periods can result in wilting.
The best place to store loose leaf lettuce is by keeping it in the crisper drawer.
Store the lettuce leaves with some damp paper towels to balance the moisture within and around the vegetable.
Keep loose leaves between layers of paper towels to provide them with a barrier from others that may be starting to spoil.
The same goes for heads of lettuce.
However, since the leaves are tightly packed, wrapping a paper towel around the whole head is enough.
Once the lettuce is wrapped, put it in a covered container and place it on a shelf in your fridge.
If your fridge does not have enough shelf space, store the wrapped leaves in a plastic bag and put them in the crisper drawer instead.
Avoid storing lettuce leaves near high ethylene-producing fruits and vegetables such as apples, bananas, and tomatoes.
Additionally, never vacuum-seal lettuce leaves in an airtight plastic bag.
A balanced mix of air and moisture is essential for keeping lettuce crisp and fresh.
Storing vegetables in the freezer multiplies shelf life tenfold, but it can ruin texture, consistency, taste, and appearance.
A frozen vegetable may not look as appetizing as a fresh one, and it could change in so many ways.
If you plan to freeze lettuce, choose the varieties with thicker leaves, such as butterhead and romaine.
Can You Freeze Lettuce?
It is possible to store lettuce in the freezer, but it depends on how and when you plan to use it.
If you plan to eat lettuce raw, try consuming it before its shelf life in the fridge ends and avoid putting it in the freezer.
Only consider freezing if you plan to make vegetable purees, smoothies, stews, and soups.
You can freeze lettuce in two ways.
The first one involves vacuum-sealing lettuce leaves in freezer bags.
The second method requires pureeing and pouring into ice cube trays or freezer-safe containers.
How do you store lettuce for a long time?
Another tip to extend the shelf life of loose leaf lettuce is by supplying the leafy greens with the carbon dioxide it requires to thrive.
To generate some carbon dioxide for leafy greens, you will need two household chemicals: acetic acid and sodium bicarbonate.
Simply put, acetic acid is vinegar, and sodium bicarbonate is baking soda.
Try mixing a teaspoon of baking soda with the same amount of vinegar and notice how bubbles are formed.
The foaming bubbles are a result of gas formation, which, in this case, is carbon dioxide.
The mixture creates a swift reaction, and the carbon dioxide can dissipate faster than it gets absorbed by the lettuce.
There is a way to slow this process down to provide the lettuce with a gradual supply of carbon dioxide and avoid spillage due to bubble formation.
Here’s how it’s done:
Step 1. Prepare equal parts vinegar and baking soda.
Step 2. Prepare a small container that can accommodate the volume of both substances, some rubber bands, and some paper towels.
The small container should also fit inside the storage box that will house your lettuce leaves.
Step 3. Freeze the vinegar in the small container.
Step 4. Put the baking soda on top of the frozen vinegar, and spread it evenly to the sides of the small container.
Step 5. Fold some paper towels and wrap them over the top of the small container.
Step 6. Use some rubber bands to tighten the folded paper towels around the small container.
Step 7. Put the small container in an upright position inside the storage box with the lettuce.
You can do this procedure for lettuce you plan to store either at room temperature or in the fridge.
As the vinegar turns to liquid in small amounts, the mixture generates gradual amounts of carbon dioxide.
The paper towels act as filters that prevent spillage and bubble formation outside the small container.
How Long Does Lettuce Last?
Different types of lettuce have varying shelf-lives. The longest-lasting varieties are the heads of lettuce or iceberg lettuce.
These lettuce types can stay crisp and fresh in the fridge for up to three weeks.
On the other hand, loose leaf lettuce can only last in the fridge anywhere between seven and 10 days.
Lettuce leaves can wilt the longer it stays in storage, but there is also a trick to remedy wilting.
Once you are ready to consume your lettuce leaves, take them out of the fridge.
Next, prepare a bowl with ice water and soak the lettuce leaves for about five to seven minutes.
The cold stiffens the lettuce and revitalizes its crisp and fresh state.
For the best results, when buying loose leaf lettuce, avoid taking more than you can consume in 10 days.
If you are getting heads of lettuce, you can safely store an amount you can eat in three weeks.
As you may have noticed, the storage practices for different lettuce types are pretty similar, but the iceberg lettuce stays fresh longer.