How to Wash and Dry Mixed Greens

Julia Bainbridge
Food Editor

There are simple things you can do to make your everyday ingredients more pleasurable. Those are things we address in this column, called Treat Me Right—because that’s what these ingredients are shouting out for you to do. 

Leafy greens—not sturdy greens like kale or collards, but the delicate mixed greens you use in salads—are often subject to battery. They’re plunged too long in cold water, or dressed too far ahead of being served, or left to squat in the fridge with no roof over their once bright-green heads. 

Don’t do that to them. Treat them right. Here’s how: 

1. Rinse them in cold water. There are two ways to do this. If you’ve bought lettuce from the farmers’ market and there’s dirt at the root, fill a large mixing bowl with cold water, submerge the lettuce and then move it around a bit (like you would when you hand wash delicates!). Let it tread water just for a few seconds, so the dirt falls to the bottom of the bowl and the leaves don’t become over saturated. Then move onto step two. The second way, which works just fine for store-bought mixed greens that have likely already been washed, is to place them in a colander and briefly rinse them under a faucet of cold running water while using your hand to give bottom leaves the chance to shower. 

2. Pat them dry immediately after rinsing them, so the water doesn’t soak into the leaves. And be thorough! When their surfaces are bone dry, the greens will better hold onto whatever you dress them in and they’ll stay fresh longer in the fridge. 

3. Store whatever you don’t use in the fridge. Some people use the towel method: place a clean dish towel on your work surface, layer dried greens on top, roll both into a cylinder, and secure with rubber bands. That works well, but we also like using a plastic bag for week-long storage; it creates a humid, greenhouse-like environment so the lettuce doesn’t lose moisture. Wrap your dry greens in clean, dry paper towels, tuck them gingerly—no bruising—into a zip-top plastic bag, and store in the crisper. You could poke a few holes in the bag if the greens start looking too moist, but that’s why the paper towel is there, to soak up condensation. 

4. Dress RIGHT before serving. Do it too early, and the greens will soak up the liquid and become soggy. You want them to coat the greens, but remain on the surface like a slick of mascara. Dressing salad should always be your very last step on a dinner party prep list. 

5. Season your salad! Too many people fail to do this, and it’s such a shame: a little salt and pepper coax the best, springy flavors out of baby greens, and if you use flaky salt, which we recommend, it ads crunch. 

See these steps in action above.