When making a salad, lettuce is usually one of the main ingredients.
What you need to know about lettuce is mostly how to wash it and to make sure that it’s edible and attractive.
If you are unsure what type of lettuce to buy, check out my post “Salad Greens From A to Z”.
The lettuce you buy from the supermarket may or not be packaged in some way, but it came from the ground and you can’t just start eating it, unless you’ve bought the pre-washed kind.
When grocery stores started selling pre-washed lettuce I thought it was brilliant, until I bought a bag. I discovered that if I didn’t use it within a day or two it was history (with a bit of a slimy edge). Granted, when I used it immediately, it was a huge time-saver. But, if you know how, it really only takes about 4 minutes to wash, dry and store lettuce.
Knowing how to wash and store lettuce (and other “salad greens”) is not that big of a mystery, particularly if you have a salad spinner. And I do recommend that you get one. They are relatively cheap and they make washing lettuce a snap.
Salad spinners cost about $25. If you eat a lot of salad it is well worth the investment.
However, let’s begin with the “but I don’t have a salad spinner” approach.
First, cut the head of lettuce away from its root with a knife. (You can also just do this with your hands – the root should break off easily.) Then, separate the leaves.
To wash iceberg lettuce first remove the core with a paring knife.
Then break it apart with your hands. (Some heads of iceberg are much firmer than others!)
Fill a large bowl with cool water and gently place the lettuce leaves in the bowl giving them a gentle swish as you drop them in the bowl.
After about 30 seconds of floating in the water the sand or dirt will sink to the bottom. Gently shake the water off each leaf and place them one at a time on paper towels or a clean dish towel. Blot the lettuce dry with some more paper towels.
OK, that’s the manual way. Now let’s use the salad spinner.
A salad spinner is a great little tool for both washing the lettuce and getting the excess water off. It comes in three parts – the bowl, the colander (the bowl with the holes in it) and the lid.
You begin the same way by cutting off the root and separating the leaves. But now, you place the leaves inside the colander, which is sitting inside the bowl.
Fill the spinner with water. All the sand on the lettuce leaves should sink to the bottom.
Lift the colander (with the lettuce in it) out of the bowl, pour away the water, and then replace the colander in the bowl. Finally, put the lid on.
Now you can spin the lettuce by turning the handle. The spinning action will force the water off the lettuce, and help it to dry.
If you’re not going to use the whole head of lettuce, then lay out the washed leaves on paper towels…
… and roll them up and put them in a plastic bag.
To save money, you can use the plastic bags from the produce section of the grocery store.
When lettuce is washed and properly stored, it stays fresh in the refrigerator for about 5 to 6 days. However, note that lettuce that you’ve washed yourself and stored properly will last longer then pre-washed lettuce.
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