Summer is now in full swing (glory be!), and that means we’re eating way more fun, fresh salads as part of our lunch and dinner rotations.
Salad planning, like any meal planning, is a learned skill and decidedly soft science that combines hard shopping metrics with a certain degree of clairvoyance. But even the most disciplined spreadsheet-makers can’t fully guard against life’s unpredictability, and that means sometimes you’ll have more salad greens than you need or fewer days than you thought you’d have to eat them and, in turn, spoiled food and wasted money. Not ideal.
Salad greens are especially tricky because you can’t really freeze them raw (for the most part), which would obviously help extend their shelf life. So then what’s the best way to make fresh salad greens last longer in the fridge? And what can be done if your greens are on the brink of spoiling?
We turned to a true master of the craft, Hetty McKinnon, for answers. Hetty has been laser-focused on salads since 2011 when she first started experimenting with salad recipes and sharing her fresh takes with neighbors in Sydney, Australia. Nearly two decades, two salad cookbooks, a move to America, and countless bags of salad greens later, Hetty has ideas on how to help keep your greens fresh for longer. Plus some tips for what to do with said greens if they’re about to reach the point of no return.
Family, by Hetty McKinnon, $22.65 on Amazon
New Vegetarian Comfort Food to Nourish Every Day
How to Store Salad Greens So They’ll Last Longer
If you know you’re going to use them in time, you probably don’t have to spend much energy on storing your salad greens. But if you feel like you bought too much or your salad greens are in danger of spoiling, Hetty has ideas.
“Salad greens, especially delicate salad mixes or soft lettuce, tend to keep best stored in a container (glass or plastic) lined with paper or tea towel,” Hetty says. “Simply place the leaves of your greens in an even layer on top and then cover it with another layer of paper/tea towel before covering it with a lid.” Just try to avoid packing the leaves in too tightly, and once packaged return them to the vegetable crisper.
Tea towels certainly make the more eco-friendly option, and you can buy a few to reserve as your salad towels since they might soak up a little of that leafy green color. Hetty loves these Pyrex airtight glass containers for storing greens and tells me she’s been using them for years.
Pyrex 6-Piece Glass Storage Containers, $17.29 from Target
Lock 'em up tight and keep 'em fresh longer.
KitchenSmart Kitchen Towels, $7.99 from Bed, Bath & Beyond
Keep some towels on hand to store salad greens when you've bought too much.
Consider Cooking Hearty Greens Before they Spoil
If you have an excess of kale, spinach, or swiss chard and not enough time to get to them, Hetty recommends cooking them in olive oil and garlic until they are completely wilted and then storing them in an airtight container in the fridge. “Once cooked they’ll last quite a bit longer,” she says, “and you can use these wilted greens with pasta, rice, or on toast with eggs.”
Or Use Them in a Pesto…
Bunches of greens can also be used to make a flavorful pesto. One of Hetty’s favorites is a simple kale pesto in which she whips up a bunch of wilted greens in the Vitamix with a clove of garlic, nuts (pine nuts or pistachios), olive oil, a touch of water, and salt. “It’s a great way to feed yourself or your family with a hit of greens.”
Vitamix Explorian, $349.95 from Amazon
A fresh kale or spinach pesto is a dynamite way to save greens on the cusp.
Or Add Them to a Stir Fry!
Another way to save wilting greens is in a quick stir-fry. Saute your greens in a hot wok or frying pan and finish with a little soy sauce and sesame oil and then eat with rice for a quick meal. This works great with kale, collard greens, and chard but also with lettuce like romaine or iceberg. “Stir-fried lettuce is a popular Chinese dish,” Hetty mentions,“ and one which I loved growing up.”
Header image by Martin Barraud / OJO Images / Getty Images.