Green Your Greens: DIY Convenience Produce

Here’s the thing those plastic bags and clear clamshells of pre-washed lettuces and greens have going for them: they are super convenient. Need a salad in 25 seconds? Done. Need a handful of baby spinach to throw in an omelette? Easy. Need a mix of baby braising greens like kale and chard as a side for dinner? No problem!

Here’s what they don’t have going for them: economy, sustainability, flavor, shelf-life and freshness. Plastic wrapped greens aren’t very green, are they? (And in the same vein, how much wood could a woodchuck chuck?) If you grow your own greens, chances are that some of those things I just mentioned are important to you. But even life-in-the-slow-lane type people sometimes need a salad in 25 seconds and pre-washed braising greens for dinner.

So here’s how I take my homegrown stuff and pre-prep it.

Wash your harvest. This is what I harvested yesterday: a bunch of frisee, two heads of buttercrunch lettuce and a good bunch of Red Russian and Kavalo Nero Kale. I wash out my sink really well. I also give it a quick wipe-out with a dilute bleach solution followed by a clean-water rinse if I’m worried about anything nasty like meat juices hanging around in the sink. Then I fill up the sink with cold water. I wash multiple types of greens together, but you can go one at a time too. I let my greens soak for a good 15 minutes, which gives and sneaky slugs that might be hiding time to drown and fall to the bottom of the sink. If your greens are really dirty, you can double wash them.

Take your clean greens and give then a spin in your salad spinner. I keep different types of greens separate for this, generally.  Get ‘em good and dry, but don’t go crazy: it’s a salad spinner, not a lawn mower. You can rip the handles right off these things. Ask me how I know.

Lay out your lettuce on a nice lint free cloth napkin. Yes you can use paper towels, but then you don’t get to say you’re greening your greens.
Roll the sides of your napkin in, and then gently roll the napkin up. Basically you are making a lettuce-napkin burrito. Don’t push down or crush anything, you just want to lightly roll up the napkin.
Put your greens-filled napkin in a container. I have used big re-sealable Tuperware-type containers. Those work. Back in my less green days I used plastic ziplock bags. I hate to say it, but those work great. The goal is to find a container which will minimize the dehydrating effect that a refrigerator has on fresh food while not promoting tons of rot-causing moisture buildup. So you need something that breathes, but just a little. I’m working on a fabric bag that will have the right breathability to keep greens fresh for several days or a week. But since I don’t sew, it’s a slow-going thing. So, for now, my “container” of choice is BioBags

BioBags (and I’m sure all the other brands out there that are basically the same concept) keep the right amount of moisture around greens. Not too much, not too little. Wrapped in a cloth napkin and sealed up in a BioBag, I get a solid week out of my lettuces and greens.

I try to stretch out my use of the BioBags, so I assembly-line wash, dry and roll-up whatever greens I harvested that day in separate napkins and shove them all in one bag if they’ll fit. I tie the bag up, toss the whole thing in the fridge and have lots of options for convenience produce ready to go when I need it.

My compost pail is just a repurposed plastic bucket that once held a large volume of commercial cookie dough, and does not rate to fancy lining for itself. However, if I have some used BioBags from storing produce that are starting to weaken a bit, I’ll give my cookie-dough-compost-tub the star treatment and line it. Oooh La La.
How do you store your produce? Any tips to make your fresh-from-the-garden goods as convenient as the store bought version?
Failing Vegetarianism
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Comments

  1. I do basically the same thing, but I use the Debbie Meyer green bags. I don't know if they are biodegradable, probably not, but I use them over and over and over again. Like you, I can easily get greens to last a week.

  2. great post.. i'm just 'me' so i cheat one more.. i just store them in my salad spinner …. when i'm out, i go pick more…

  3. Thanks for this! We don't grow our greens, but do support local farms, so a lot of our greens come more or less straight from the ground. We have come to expect a little grit in our salads, and unfortunately always have a portion that goes bad (too wet, too dry, too something). This looks like a great method! Recommend any salad spinners in particular?

  4. Annie – I'll look into those green bags, thanks for the tip.
    Roasted – If I have just a bit of lettuce, it does keep very well in the salad spinner. Totally agree.
    Lauren – Yay for CSAs! I use a Zyliss I picked up at Central Market in Shoreline. It has the pull-type handle. I know a lot of people also love those Oxo push ones.

  5. Great post. I must say however… where did you harvest that lettuce? No way it's overwintered like that, and I didn't see a greenhouse. Hehe. Let us know your secret. I am going to succeed at winter gardening if it kills me.

    Back to your actual post. For a while, I thought you were preparing your lettuce to eat, not store, so I was thinking, we just go pick it, rinse it off, spin it and eat it. Come to think of it, we don't store much as we go to the garden when we want a salad. However, I'll remember that for the late spring when my lettuce is starting to bolt and I've got a ton going to waste. I'll store some and let the hens have the rest. Great solution!

    As for our compost pail, it's a repurposed kitty litter bucket (I got a ton before they switched to more eco friendly options because I love the buckets). Currently my regular one is letting Mother Nature rinse it out for me since it was getting nasty and I don't have the hose hooked up. I never thought of lining it with a bio bag, most bags are too small. Besides, last year I tried to compost the compostable sun chips bag and it was a dud. I have been pulling bits of chopped up foil bag out of my compost every time I use it. Maybe Cedar Grove can compost those things, but not me.

  6. Erica – I make these amazing cheese cloth fabric veggie bags for a friend of mine. They're re-usable and keep the veggies super fresh because they breathe, but keep the veggies moist. Check out the website here: http://www.beautifulearthbags.com/online-store.php
    She's also planning on getting an etsy site up and going soon. I've been planning on doing a post on the veggie bags, so keep an eye out for it!

  7. Forgot to mention that she also makes organic fabric bags as well!

  8. Sinfonian – we do have a 6×8' greenhouse we built from a kit. I generally grow some tomatoes and cukes and peppers in it in the summer (usually have outdoor toms too) and greens in the winter. It's not heated – all passive – and I was ready to write off the entire bunch of overwintering lettuces I put in around Oct (November?) in January. Things were getting a bit slimey. But the 4 or 5 several weeks they've been sizing up nicely. Just harvested a bunch of mustard greens, and lettuce and frisee out of there. Not much lettuce left but lots of frisee.

    April – I'll check out that link, thanks!

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