The Case For Storing Fresh Greens Without Washing Them First

Those of us who love our fruits and veggies know that it is important to eat our five a day, and that washing all types of fresh produce before consuming them is the best way to ensure we're keeping ourselves from getting sick from pathogens, which may be lurking on surfaces and in crevices. While the Centers for Disease Control forever reminds us of the need to wash our fruits and vegetables under running water before consuming them, you may wonder if there's a right time and a right way to do so. Experts say there is.

Instinct might tell us the best time to give our produce a good rinse is as soon as we bring our groceries home in an attempt to prevent cross-contamination, but we aren't actually doing ourselves or our leafy greens any favors by doing that. Washing produce long before it is consumed is not only a way to expose ourselves to the possibility of getting food poisoning, we're also giving our salad greens a pathway to spoiling more quickly, and there's a reason for this.

Excess moisture is bad for fresh leafy greens

Many greens sold in supermarkets are bagged and sealed, which helps prevent them from spoiling before their time. The packaging does this by keeping greens from becoming too moist or too dry, and from becoming exposed to ethylene, which can encourage greens to rot more quickly. This colorless gas is difficult to avoid, because it is emitted by other common fruits like apples and bananas as they ripen. When leafy greens come in contact with ethylene, they age and decay more quickly.

Preventing ethylene exposure isn't the only reason we should keep our produce sealed until we're ready to eat it. Even though we're careful about washing our vegetables, we're probably not thinking about drying them out properly. All that extra moisture is going to create conditions that encourage bacterial growth, making the greens rot faster, especially since washing doesn't remove all the pathogens that can be found in our vegetables anyway.

If you must wash your leafy greens before storing them, make sure you're drying them properly by wrapping them in an absorbent material like paper towels to keep away excess moisture. You can also rot-proof your greens by examining them carefully and removing any bits that look brown, and then keeping your washed greens in a sealed plastic bag or box. This method is likely to increase the longevity of lettuce greens like Bibb and romaine.