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Greens: Prep and Storage

29 May

Make no doubt about it: if you stick a plastic bag full of wet greens into your refrigerator, they won’t keep long. Very quickly, they’ll start rotting. Especially if they’re as delicate and tender as the baby lettuces. Yet this is what many folks do when they get their veggies home from their pickup sites. If you prepare your leafy greens properly, however, they will easily keep for the week (until you are re-supplied, in other words!). I know sometimes you don’t have time to deal with them the day you pick up, so if not, hopefully within a day or so you can pull them out and ‘prep’ them, as I’m going to describe below, without them being much the worse for wear.

If your time is limited, select the most delicate greens to prep, like the bagged baby lettuces. The more tender the leaf, the more delicate its constitution, and the more susceptible it is to rot.

Here are the types of greens I will prep in this fashion:
– baby lettuces
– arugula
– tatsoi
– mizuna
– mustard greens
– spinach
– radish greens (yes, you can eat them! they make a good cooking green)

And the tools I use:
– a big bowl or a sink
– a salad spinner (if you don’t have one, I have a tip)
– cotton floursack towels (or any towel will do)
– clean, dry plastic bags (I’ve used Evert-fresh bags to good success; you can find them in catalogers such as Real Goods, but they are not a requirement)

The larger and hardier bunched greens such as kale, collards, chard, and even mei qing choi I do a little differently (they’re eaiser). I’ll cover them briefly below, but let’s get back to the delicate leafies:

In a basin or sink, put each batch of greens (I do them one at a time) and add enough water so you can swish them around reasonably freely. Swish them around good, and then pick them out, in handfuls or individually if you like, inspect them for dirt, pinch off any root ends or broken stems (in the case of spinach, I pinch off most of the stem, saving the leaves), and remove any weeds or leaves which are yellowed, transferring the select greens into your salad spinner.
greens in a basin of water
Sometimes you will find bonus goodies in your greens! In last week’s tatsoi, I had some red mustard greens. And a weed or two.
surprises in the mix!
Spin the greens well (spin, pour out the water, spin again, and repeat, until you’re not getting more water in the bottom of the spinner). Then spread them out on a clean towel out of the sun and allow to air dry while you prep your next batch of greens. A few drops of moisture here and there are not the end of the world, but they should be 95% or better dry before you bag them.
spread greens on a cotton floursack towel
Transfer greens to a plastic bag, gently squeeze or suck out the air (like the reverse of blowing up a balloon), and tie with a twisty-tie. These are now good to go! You will now have a bag of fabulous fresh greens all washed and ready to go, which you can grab and use, without worry of dirt or bugs or weeds or rot.

Shortcut: if you don’t want to wait for your greens to dry, you can roll the greens up, towel and all, and put them into a plastic bag overnight. By the next day, the towel will have absorbed the moisture and you can decant them back into the bag, removing the towel. (Don’t store them in the towel too many days this way, as they’ll go limp. Still good to cook with, but if you wanted a fresh salad, you’d have to perk them up in water, spin and dry again before using.)

No-salad-spinner tip: I learned this from a cookbook called “Soup and Bread” by Crescent Dragonwagon. Put your washed greens into an old pillowcase and (go outside to do this!), swing the bag around wildly over your head or around in the air like a lasso, and the water will ‘spin’ out.

Storing the hardier bunched greens (kale, collards, chard, mei qing choi)
As I said, these are easier. I typically don’t wash them until I’m ready to use them (and sometimes not even then, if upon inspection there are no signs of dirt or aphids!). But I do let them air dry on a towel as I’m sorting through my bag of goodies and prepping other stuff before bagging and putting into the fridge. When mostly dry, then put them into a bag, squeeze the air out, etc. and refrigerate. You can use the same shortcut for these as the other greens, i.e. if you’re in a hurry and the bunched greens are wet, wrap them in a towel and stick them in a bag (or your crisper drawer) overnight to absorb the extra moisture, then transfer them to a bag the following day

Another Kale Processing Tip
Barbie’s Kale (and Chard) Tip

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