How to Revive Fresh Greens ♥ Vegetables 101

How to Revive Fresh Greens, three easy techniques ♥
It happens to all of us, right? The greens look soooo pretty (and we know they're good for us) so we bring them home and ... ignore them. So let's take a look at how to keep the greens fresh and at their best in the first place. Once they begin to wilt? Sorry, I wish it were otherwise but not all greens are save-able. But there are three easy ways to refresh wilted salad greens and cooking greens. All you need for re-hydration? A little water, a little time and the promise of high hope for refreshed leafy greens for the next few days.

How to Save Money on Groceries. How to Keep Greens Fresh. How to Restore Crispness in Wilted Lettuce and Greens. How to Refresh Turnip Greens, Mustard Greens, Collard Greens, Spinach and Other Greens.

Let Us Not Forget:
Vegetables Are Alive!

Beets sprouting small leaves

Some times it's too easy to forget that the plants we eat are living things, even after harvest, even after a long trip through the modern food distribution system, even after they move into our kitchens, even after we've ignored them for days and days.

They are alive! They sprout! They leaf out! Some will even reproduce themselves in our kitchens!

Before & After

Oh, if only I had a "before" picture when I found two large bunches of greens (one beet, one turnip) all sad and wilted in the basement fridge. I was certain both were a total loss, targets for the compost pile. But this cook, well, I a-b-h-o-r food waste, ever and always but especially now. So I tried an easy, no-risk trick I use to Keep Green Onions Fresh for Weeks.

So what happened "after" those two bundles of greens spent 24 hours in a "vase" of water, just like fresh flowers?

REVIVING THE BEET GREENS Beet greens are more tender, like chard, like baby spinach. BEFORE: the leaves were not just wilted but dried out. AFTER: there was no saving them. :-(

REVIVING THE TURNIP GREENS Turnip greens are what I call "sturdy" or "hearty" greens, like mustard greens, collard greens, many Asian greens, some spinach (not including baby spinach). BEFORE: the leaves were droopy and wilted but not dried out or soggy. AFTER: about 12 hours in the water at room temperature, total success, total save! The greens were as fresh and perfect as they'd been an entire week earlier!

But this experience got me to thinking about how, over the years, I've learned to care for dark leafy greens, both salad greens and cooking greens.

Tired of the same old vegetables the same old ways? Try chard, the tender leafy green with the colorful stems, either raw or cooked. Recipes & inspiration in this collection of Chard Recipes ♥ Many Weight Watchers, vegan, gluten-free, low-carb, paleo and whole30 recipes, from weeknight easy to weekend special.

How to Keep Greens Fresh In the First Place

The best way to keep greens fresh? Eat them asap, just home from the grocery or the farmers market or wherever you find dark, leafy greens.

The enemies of fresh greens are:

Bruising Caused by too much weight or becoming too tightly packed

Too Much Moisture Caused by (usually) tight containers without a way for moisture to escape

Too Little Moisture Caused (usually) by a container being too loose, causing the greens to dry out

Cold Cold is the particular risk of tender greens, the sturdy greens can take more and in fact, in our home gardens, in late winter when the outdoor temps are still darn cold. (More below on which greens are tender, which ones are more sturdy and cold-resistant.)

Think how grocery stores display (especially) bundles of fresh greens, even plastic bags of fresh greens. Unfortunately, our home refrigerators are much colder and much dryer. The longer I cook, the more I realize how our #1 kitchen appliance is not designed for people who actually cook with real food!

Time The longer the greens have been around in less-than-perfect conditions, the less edible + cookable they become.

How to Keep Leafy Greens At Their Best

Cook 'em! Prioritize eating / cooking greens before other vegetables since their shelf life is shorter. And cook a big batch for "planned overs". Once cooked, the greens will keep for several days. I l-o-v-e having leftover greens for quick lunches! Need some recipe ideas for leafy greens? Check out Leafy Greens in the A-Z of Vegetables.

Cook 'em to hold 'em! This technique for Greek Greens is a great way to "hold" greens for several days, just by flash cooking them.

Leave the greens in their original packaging, if the greens come that way. I have great luck with even giant Costco-sized bags of spinach for a week, minimum. Do watch the best-by dates, they're helpful.

Ready to fall for kale? This collection of seasonal Kale Recipes ♥ can help, savory to sweet, salads to sides, soups to supper, sandwiches to smoothies, simple to special. Many Weight Watchers, vegan, gluten-free, low-carb, paleo, whole30 recipes.

Three Ways to Revive & Refresh Leafy Greens

#1 Use Your Salad Spinner
BEST FOR Bags of small greens or loose greens that are lightly wilted. This includes spring mix and other salad mixes, arugula, spinach, kale, even cabbage and coleslaw mixes.

HOW TO Soak the greens briefly, just gently swooshing them in barely warm water in the base of the salad spinner. (I usually do this right in the spinning basket, that makes it extra easy to lift out the greens all at once. You can also use another bowl or even just a clean sink.) You might want to do this with fresh water more than once, let the grit that collects in the bottom of the base be your guide. Pick out and discard any soggy or rotting leaves/stems. Discard the cleaning water and rinse out the base. Run the spinner, letting the centrifugal force remove the excess water without bruising the greens. Pour that water out of the base and rinse it again.

THEN WHAT The greens are ready to use right away but will also keep for several days, just keep them refrigerated, right in the salad spinner if you like. I'll some times put a paper towel across the top, this keeps the greens from drying out in the fridge without trapping too much moisture inside.

NO SALAD SPINNER? How do you manage? :-) I use one nearly every day! I do recommend the "spin" type salad spinner vs the "cord" spinners, way easier to use and longer-lasting. For a long while, I had this flow-through salad spinner (affiliate link) which is especially good for simultaneous cleaning and spinning but not for soaking or storing. If space is an issue, you might consider a collapsible salad spinner (affiliate link). My Disclosure Promise

#2 Soak the Greens in Ice Water
BEST FOR Any greens, tender or sturdy, loose or in bunches.

HOW TO To clean them first, swoosh the greens in a bowl of barely warm water. Could you use the base of a salad spinner instead of a bowl? Absolutely. It may take a few batches of water until no more grit collects in the bottom of the bowl. Rinse out all the grit and refill the bowl with cold water and some ice cubes. Submerge the greens and let soak in the ice water for 30 minutes. Pour off the water and dry the greens completely, perhaps with your salad spinner, otherwise on a double layer of paper towels.

AND THEN Use right away to make an excellent, fresh and crispy salad otherwise cover and refrigerate, use soon!

#3 Treat the Greens Like Fresh Cut Flowers
BEST FOR Greens with stems wrapped in bunches. The key here is hydration right through the stems.

HOW TO Rinse the greens under running water until clean, if needed, soak them first and then rinse until fully clean. Gather up the greens into a bundle and secure somehow, a metal tie, a rubber band, something like that. Then trim the stems by at least a quarter inch, usually I take a good half inch or more. Place the greens in a clean glass or ceramic container of some sort, I often use mason jars but yes, an actual vase would work too! Add just enough water to submerge the newly cut stem ends plus enough to allow for water to be drawn up into the plants.

THEN WHAT Watch the water level, refresh it if the container runs dry. If it does, snip the stems again and start over. The greens will keep for a couple of weeks when treated like cut flowers.

Tired of the same-old spinach? Find new inspiration in this collection of seasonal (and dare I say, sexy?) Spinach Recipes ♥, savory to sweet, salads to sides, soups to supper, sandwiches to smoothies, simple to special. Many Weight Watchers, vegan, gluten-free, low-carb, paleo, whole30 recipes.

Should You Keep Greens In Their Original Storage Bags?
Sometimes But Not Always.

The Yes Answer Bags of fresh greens are so amazing! Not only is 99% of the cleaning taken care of but also we can get pre-mixed many-variety greens we'd rarely be able to collect on our own, all those colors, textures and shapes! And the bags themselves are engineering miracles: keeping the greens fresh and enticing while moving from harvest to table.

So until you open the bag, take advantage of the technical know-how built into the bags themselves to store your greens. Just be careful about temperature: for example, our downstairs fridge runs cold and so the greens can actually get frostbitten inside the bag. Trust me, not good!

Once you open the bag, it's still a good idea to keep the greens in the same bag, so long as you replicate, as best you can, the sealed situation. Here that's a simple three-step process: (1) shake the bag to loosen the leaves inside the bag, give them some breathing room (2) fold the top of the bag over top of itself once or twice (3) "seal" the bag by wrapping a rubber band, not too tight, around the bag, keeping the folds tight but without compacting and thus bruising the greens.

Recommended Reading: The History of Packaged Salad in 5 Minutes

The No Answer But once the greens start to turn soft or soggy, just a few leaves, not the whole bag, it's time to switch to another container. My favorite? That self-same salad spinner but you can probably rig up something similar.

What About Re-useable Storage Bags for Vegetables?

Avoiding plastic or single-use items in the kitchen? I don't have experience with these products but they come with many credible reviews. If you have experience with these or other solutions, please do let me know!

re-useable, washable mesh storage bags
re-useable, washable cotton storage bags especially for vegetables from Vejibag

Tired of the same old vegetables the same old ways? Try collard greens, the sturdy greens we eat for good luck at New Years. Recipes & inspiration in this collection of Collard Green Recipes ♥ Many Weight Watchers, vegan, gluten-free, low-carb, paleo and whole30 recipes, from weeknight easy to weekend special.

And Hey, Veggie Lovers?

How do you keep fresh greens, well, fresh? And revive them when they begin to wilt and need attention?? And then cook them??? Please do chime in, our collective "hive mind" can be so helpful!

Still Hungry?

More to Explore

~ What Are Bitter Greens? ~
~ What Are Crudites? ~
~ What Are Root Vegetables? ~
~ What Is a Tomatillo? ~
~ What Is Jicama?
~ more Special (Useful & Informative) Stuff ~
from A Veggie Venture

~ How To Keep Green Onions Fresh for Weeks ~
~ How to Freeze Tomato Paste ~
~ How to Freeze Stock in Canning Jars ~
~ My Most-Used Kitchen Tool, a Garbage Bowl or Compost Bowl ~
~ Tomato Knife for Clean, Sharp Slices ~
~ Why Dried Beans Won't Cook ~
~ DIY Substitute for Baker's Joy ~
~ The Magic of Watermelon Wedges ~
from Kitchen Parade, my food column

Looking for healthy new ways to cook vegetables? A Veggie Venture is home to hundreds of super-organized quick, easy and healthful vegetable recipes and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables. Join "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg to explore the exciting world of common and not-so-common vegetables, seasonal to staples, savory to sweet, salads to sides, soups to supper, simple to special.

© Copyright Kitchen Parade

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna