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Many people don’t think twice about placing bagged or wrapped produce in the fridge in the original packaging but it’s not always the best way to store fresh fruit and vegetables. Leafy green salad leaves in particular can change their colour and texture in a matter of days when stored incorrectly, making them almost inedible. Experts have shared the “general rule” to follow to keep your leafy greens crisp and fresh for as long as possible.
Bagged greens make it much easier to eat a selection of healthy vegetables in one go. Still, if you buy them often, you’ve probably experienced the unfortunate wilting and sliminess that can happen in a matter of days.
While the fridge is the best place to keep everything from spinach leaves to curly kale and rocket, one food expert has revealed that the “optimal” approach to long-lasting vegetables begins in the supermarket.
According to Randy Worobo, professor of food microbiology at Cornell University, bags of salad leaves and greens should be stored in an insulated cooler bag as soon as you buy them.
Suppose they are left in room temperature conditions before making it to your own fridge. In that case, their shelf life is already in jeopardy due to an increased risk of condensation and unwanted moisture.
At home, you can place unopened bags into the fridge as long as it is set to the correct temperature of 4C or below. This is essential for food safety but also to make sure your greens have a longer shelf life.
Once opened, it’s important to remove the salad leaves from the bag if you want to keep the texture and flavours intact. According to Randy, this is to “continue minimising condensation”.
To do this, place a clean paper towel inside the bag and seal it with a clip. The paper towel will help absorb any condensation that might develop during storage and prevent the leaves from going limp.
When it comes to salad leaves sold in boxes, the best place for them is in the crisper drawer of your fridge. This is because this compartment maintains high humidity and helps the leafy greens stay fresh.
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Storing bags of salad correctly is bound to make them taste great beyond a few days, but if you’re looking for real longevity, it may be best to ditch them altogether.
According to Ghaida Batarseh Havern, a food safety educator at Michigan State University, whole heads or bunches are much more long-lasting than packaged leaves.
Speaking to Martha Stewart, Ghaida explained that this is because cutting and chopping produce can change the leaf’s biochemistry, making them more vulnerable to bacterial growth.
Randy added: “Specifically, the cells in the tissues release their contents, which serve as food for spoilage microorganisms.”
In terms of the exact shelf life, the experts noted that bags and boxes tend to have a shorter period than those bought whole as they are pre-cut.
Pre-packaged salad will generally last three to five days in your fridge while whole heads could last up to two weeks beyond the date of purchase.
It’s not just the longevity of your leafy greens that are compromised when you buy the bagged either, in fact, they tend to be more expensive to buy in supermarkets.
For example, an 80g Butterhead Salad bag in Tesco costs £1.05 without a Clubcard and has an estimated shelf life of just three days. Buying a whole Iceberg Lettuce on the other hand costs just 60p for approximately four servings worth.
Can you freeze salad bags?
If you need your salad to last even longer, you can freeze it to be used at a later date. However, it’s not as simple as placing the entire bag in there unopened.
You will need to remove the leaves from their original packaging and transfer them into a freezer-safe bag or airtight container. When using a bag, you should take time to remove any excess air from the bag before leaving them in the appliance.
Any salad kept in a container should be lined properly washed and dried before being frozen. However, it is important to note that frozen leaves won’t be of much use once defrosted if you plan to eat them cold.
Instead, they should be used for soups, stews and other cooked dishes that require some greens.
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