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What Are Salad Greens?
“Salad greens” is a broad category that includes the tender leaves or shoots of different cultivars eaten primarily in salads. The term applies to many types of lettuce—like iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, and butter lettuce—leafy vegetables like kale or radicchio, and mixes like mesclun, a Provençal word that describes a blend of salad greens and herbs, which can include arugula, spinach, young mustard greens, or frisée.
The Importance of Washing Salad Greens
Washing lettuce is primarily a matter of food safety: It helps to prevent bacteria like E. coli and other foodborne illnesses, which can be transferred to leaves through the soil, or through improper handling or transporting after harvest.
If you get fresh salad greens from the farmer’s market, rinsing with cool water removes any remaining traces of dust, dirt, or organic matter. Greens labeled as “pre-washed” at the grocery store should also be thoroughly cleaned before using.
Aphids and other bugs like caterpillars like to hang out in the nooks and crannies of leafy greens like kale—washing larger lettuce leaves one at a time under running water gives you an opportunity to inspect them for insects and trim off any wilted or mildewing sections.
How to Clean Salad Greens in 5 Steps
- To clean salad greens, first fill a large basin with cold water—your kitchen sink or a large bowl.
- Before washing heads of lettuce, remove any damaged outer leaves and cut off the stem ends.
- Separate the leaves, dropping them into the water, and swish them around with your hands. Leave the lettuce in the water a minute or two to let any dirt or sand settle to the bottom, then lift the leaves out of the water and put into a colander to drain. If the lettuce is still gritty, change the water and wash it again.
- Dry lettuce thoroughly. Put the leaves into a salad spinner in small batches, no more than half full at a time, and spin the leaves dry. Empty the water from the spinner after each batch.
- Lay the leaves out in a single layer on a clean dish towel or paper towels then roll the towel up to rid leaves of any excess moisture. (If you don’t have a salad spinner, drain the lettuce in a colander before layering the leaves between towels and rolling the towels up.) Store the lettuce in a container or resealable bag in the refrigerator after it is adequately dry.
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