Greens are some of the first crops that are ready for harvest come springtime. To help you keep your greens fresh and avoid food waste, we’ve put together some storage tips and tricks for storing your greens!
These tips are for your at-home storage of greens for your own consumption and are not to be interpreted as directions for vegetable cleaning or storage for organic growers. For details on how to clean and store vegetables as per the Canadian Organic Standards, please see Preparation and Processing sections of COG’s Guide to the Canadian Organic Standards 2020.
First things first, here are some general tips to keep in mind.
Keep your greens away from ethylene-producing fruits and vegetables. Very simply put, ethylene is a plant hormone that ripens fruit. Common ethylene-emitting produce includes apples, avocados, bananas, melons, peaches, pears and tomatoes.
As a rule of thumb, think of how greens are displayed at the store. Reflecting on how greens are stored makes it easier to wrap our heads around how we should store them at home. If we can recall which ones are stored on open shelves and spritzed with water and which ones are in airtight containers in fridges, we’re one step closer to keeping our greens fresh at home.
Inspect your greens for any leaves that are already wilting or browning. Ideally, there shouldn’t be any such pieces, but in case there are, removing any leaves that are browning or wilter will prevent them from encouraging others to spoil any faster!
Here are some specific tips for common greens.
Arugula, baby spinach, dandelion greens and butter lettuce
These tender greens typically come in air-tight, plastic packaging in the grocery store and at farmers’ markets alike. To keep these greens fresh, we recommend keeping them in the packaging you purchased it in, whether it be a plastic bag or a plastic clamshell.
If you want to wash them right away or have purchased loose greens, wash them by submerging them in a bowl of cold water and gently moving them around to let any soil fall to the bottom. Repeat if necessary. Once they’re clean, gently lift them and dry in a salad spinner.
No salad spinner? No problem. Lay the leaves in a single layer on a tea towel and roll it on the longest edge. Then, take the two ends in one hand, making sure the seam is on the inside, and hold on tight. You’ll put the towel over your shoulder, then whip it forward. Repeat this process a few times, as is needed to shake the water off your greens! If this sounds confusing, consult this article.
Once the greens are dry, you can store them in airtight packaging in your fridge. It's important to make sure the greens are completely dry before putting them into the fridge. Even if they seem dry, we can always err on the side of caution by putting a paper towel or clean dish cloth at the bottom of the container or along the edges of a plastic bag to absorb any residual water. Then, make sure your bag or container is completely sealed before putting it in the fridge. Tender greens will stay fresh for approximately one week if stored properly.
Collard greens, kale and romaine lettuce
Hearty greens are slightly tougher than their tender counterparts, but proper storage will still help avoid spoilage and prolong their storage. We recommend two different types of storage for hearty greens, depending on what you have on hand.
If you have space in your veggie crisper to store your hearty greens, you can wrap them in a slightly damp tea towel and place them in the crisper. Make sure the greens or the towel aren’t too damp or too crammed into the crisper. They can stay fresh for approximately ten days. We check on our greens regularly and lightly spritz the towel if needed, but they typically won’t need much attention.
Another method for storing hearty greens is to use a plastic, airtight container and paper towels or clean dish cloth. Start by lining the container with paper towels and loosely fill the container with the dry greens. Then, top them with another paper towel layer and put the lid on, making sure that the container is airtight. You can store the container in a cold part of the fridge, which is typically at the back. This method will keep your greens fresh for up to ten days.
Bok choy is a delicious dark green that, if not stored properly, can spoil quickly. We recommend one storing method for bok choy that is similar to what we suggest for tender greens, the difference though, is in the drying.
If you do not want to wash the bok choy right away, go ahead to the next paragraph. Start by cutting off the base of the bok choy and separating the stalks. Similarly to tender greens, you’ll wash the bok choy by submerging the leaves into a bowl of cold water and gently moving them around to let the soil fall to the bottom. Then, gently lift the leaves from the water, shake off any excess water and blot them dry on a tea towel.
Once the bok choy is completely dry, place the leaves on new paper towels, or a clean, dry tea towel, and roll them up. Then place the rolled-up leaves in a sealed plastic bag. You can then place the bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator, and should have fresh bok choy for approximately five days.
Swiss chard is the only green for which we say: do not wash it before storing! Exposure to water greatly encourages spoilage, and it will drastically shorten its shelf life.
To keep Swiss chard as fresh as possible for as long as possible, you have two options. You can place it in a perforated plastic bag and store it in the vegetable crisper section of your fridge, or if your crisper is already full, it can be stored in an airtight plastic bag in your refrigerator. If you’re using the second method, make sure to take out as much air as possible from the bag before putting it in your refrigerator.
Using these methods, Swiss chard will keep in the refrigerator for anywhere from 5 to 10 days.
We hope these tips help keep your greens fresh and lead to less waste, and more delicious meals! Do you have other ways of storing produce that you’d like to share? Send us an email to email@example.com with your storage tips and tricks.
If you want to learn more specific tips about washing salad greens, read this article from Chris Thoreau.