The Real Reason Many Pre-Packaged Greens Aren't Crisp

At one point, bagged greens like pre-packaged salads kits were considered a triumph over decay. No longer would greens turn brown so quickly. However, two issues quickly emerged. First, bagged greens were more susceptible to listeria and other diseases. Second, the packaged vegetables were decidedly less crisp than their unbagged counterparts.

In 2016, researchers at the University of Leicester discovered that any damage done to greens — like cutting them into pieces for pre-packaged salads — released enough juice for salmonella to grow (via Global News). This is why bagged vegetables often appear in recalls. "Vegetables and fruits are now given a shelf life in a processed state when they shouldn't have any shelf life at all," Dr. Rick Holley, a University of Manitoba professor emeritus, told Global News.

Another issue with bagged greens is their environmental impact. As noted in Mother Jones, after the E. coli outbreak in packaged spinach in 2006, producers started triple washing their produce. In areas suffering from water scarcity, this becomes an untenable solution to a self-created problem.

And the greens aren't even crispy!

That's a lot of risk for greens that aren't even crispy when you bite into them. In fact, the reason lettuce leaves are so droopy when you pull them from a pre-packaged container is the same reason that they were put in the container in the first place.

Salad greens need moisture and air to remain crispy (via The Spruce Eats). When producers or consumers remove all the air and moisture from a lettuce container, they have successfully kept the contents from browning. However, they have also removed the airflow that keeps the greens crisp.

The best way to ensure that your lettuce is crisp and flavorful is, of course, to buy it fresh and eat it immediately after purchasing. If you aren't going to eat your greens right away, the optimal way to store them, according to The Spruce Eats, is to clean the leaves in cold water and dry them in a salad spinner. Then, remove the basket from the salad spinner, cover the top with damp paper towels, and place it in the fridge. The leaves should remain fresh and crispy for three to five days. While storing greens this way will result in a shorter shelf life — and perhaps less convenience — than packaged greens, they will certainly be crispier.