How to Prepare Greens for Storage

Greens could be the healthiest foods we eat, so it’s worth a little extra effort to clean and store them properly.

what to buy

The Environmental Working Group recommends that we purchase organic greens. If you can’t find organic greens, another option is to wash your greens in a saltwater solution, which I discuss below.

I usually shop at a grocery store that has organic greens, but sometimes those greens are a bit wilted. It is always best to buy greens that are crisp and evenly colored. For example, if kale is very wilted or some of the leaves have turned yellow, it’s too old and it’s best to avoid it. However, if you find a bunch that looks like this, washing will refresh it:

Wilted Kale
Wilted Kale

how to wash and store

If your greens are organic, washing is simple. Just half-fill a clean sink with cold water, add the greens, and swish them around. Then allow the greens to sit in the water for 15 – 30 minutes so any dirt will settle to the bottom of the sink. Without draining the sink, lift the greens out of the water, rinse quickly in running water, and place on a towel. When your greens are really dirty, which can be typical of spinach, you may need to repeat this step. The reason for rinsing greens in running water after they have soaked is that organic greens can contain some pesticide residue from cross-contamination, such as when nearby fields are sprayed.

Once you have washed your greens, dry the more tender greens, like lettuce, spinach or baby kale, by spinning them in a salad spinner. Then place them on a kitchen towel or paper towels, roll up loosely, place in a plastic bag, and refrigerate. If you have mature kale leaves, just give them a bit of a shake to remove most of the water – they don’t need to be spun dry.

If I have mature greens that are wilted, like those shown above, I trim the ends about ½” and make sure that I am dunking them in very cold water. Sometimes when my tap water isn’t very cold, I add some ice cubes, agitate the water until they melt, and then add my greens. Here’s a photo of the same greens as above after sitting in cold water for an hour:

Refreshed Greens
Refreshed Greens

If you don’t buy organic greens, consider washing them in a saltwater solution, as recommended by Dr. Greger. To make this solution, half-fill your sink with a mixture of 1 part salt and 9 parts water. Unfortunately Dr. Greger doesn’t say how long to leave vegetables in the saltwater – 30 minutes would probably be long enough. Rinse in cold, running water to remove the salt after they have soaked.

The length of time you can refrigerate your greens will depend upon the greens. Most will last a week. The more tender greens may not make it that long, especially if you don’t manage to spin off most of the water.