The Clever Hack That Will Keep Your Lettuce Fresh

Of all the vegetables we keep on hand in our kitchens, it's hard to think of one more versatile than lettuce. Whether crisp and cold in a Caesar salad, lending crunch to a sandwich, or blended into a green juice, lettuce is a must-have for any refrigerator's crisper drawer. But much like some other produce items such as tomatoes and berries, lettuce can be a tricky item to store.

Even when it's carefully stored in the fridge, it seems that lettuce is all too prone to spoiling — either going limp and losing its crunchy freshness, or getting slimy and becoming unusable (per Taste of Home). It can be confusing to know how to best keep lettuce fresh: Should it be washed before being stored, or not? Should it be packed into a container, a Ziploc bag, or neither? And should it be damp or dry? Read on to find out.

A damp paper towel saves the day

Lettuce can be a tricky vegetable to store because, as it turns out, it keeps best with a balance of moisture and air circulation. According to The Spruce Eats, even though lettuce and many related salad greens often come packed tightly in an airtight bag, they actually need a little bit of breathing room to stay fresh longer. So when we buy lettuce in these bags — or pack it away into Ziplocs once we get it home — we're actually setting ourselves up for wilted, soggy greens.

As The Spruce Eats explains, the best way to store lettuce is to give it both air circulation and moisture, best achieved by washing lettuce, spinning it completely dry, then removing the basket from the salad spinner and adding an important touch: some damp, but not wet paper towels on top of the basket. You can pop the basket into the fridge just like that, making sure to re-dampen the paper towels periodically.

The same method applies for other greens you pick up at the store, whether they come loose, in a bag, or in a clamshell. After being removed from the airtight packaging, piled into a salad spinner basket (or colander), and topped with damp paper towels, your lettuce or greens should stay crisp and fresh for up to five days.