Photo: Caitlin Bensel

Plus, 10 recipes to help you use them up quicker.

Arielle Weg
November 17, 2017

There’s not much more disappointing than reaching into the fridge for salad greens, and finding they’ve deteriorated into a sticky mush overnight. For some reason it happens to us more in winter, when there are fewer options for fresh produce (hello kale and collards).

Here are tips for keeping the five most popular winter greens fresh, plus some advice for how long to keep them on hand, and a few innovative ways to use them up.

Arugula

You can find this peppery green year round, but it’s best in cooler months. Arugula is somewhere between a salad green and an herb, so it works as a salad base, on a sandwich, or a garnish for soups and pasta dishes. Be sure to store the leaves for only a few days.

The best way to keep arugula fresh is to wrap it in a damp towel until you’re ready to eat. Avoid creating a moist environment in a plastic bag or container, however (like the ones they usually come in).

To use it up try putting arugula in Moroccan Butternut Squash and Chickpea Stew and Autumn Glow Salad.

Lettuce

There are many varieties of lettuce, but the most common in grocery stores are romaine, iceberg, butter, and green leaf. The nutritional values vary, but most types of lettuce are high in fiber, vitamin A and C, calcium, potassium, folate, iron, and low in calories.

Most lettuce leaves can be stored a little over a week in the fridge. Some more delicate types, such as butter lettuce or green leaf, only last a few days. To keep lettuce as fresh as can be, store it in a large zip-top bag with a damp towel inside.

Try lettuce in Thai Turkey Lettuce Cups and Chickpea “Meatballs” with Crunchy Romaine Salad.

Kale

There are six common varieties of kale. All varieties are high in fiber, protein, vitamin A, K, and C, calcium, and manganese.

Buy kale in unwashed, uncut bunches and refrigerate up to a week. You should typically remove the stem before cooking, though some varieties don’t require it. Kale can be sauteéd, steamed, or pan seared for a tender bite.

Kale is great in this Supercharged Salmon Salad or cooked in this Pasta with Browned Butter, Anchovy, and Kale.

Chard

This winter green is related to spinach but has a bit of an earthier flavor. The most popular varieties are rainbow chard and Swiss chard. It should look healthy, bright, and green when picked. The leaves are high in vitamin K, but also naturally high in sodium, so beware how much salt you add when cooking.

Store chard in a dry kitchen towel in a plastic produce bag in your refrigerator to avoid having the leaves turn slimy or mushy. Use it within three days of purchase.

Enjoy either Swiss or rainbow chard in Almond-Garlic Swiss Chard and Stewed Chickpeas and Chard over Garlic Toast.

Collard Greens

Collards are actually best a little later, during the first quarter of the year. They are very high in protein and calcium. Store bright collards in a kitchen towel in the refrigerator until ready to use. The delicate leaves typically won’t stay fresh for more than three days, but you can blanch them for 15 seconds and freeze for future use.

This variety of greens is cabbage like so it works best boiled or simmered in a soup. When you’re ready to cook, separate any older pieces, wash the leaves, and pat or spin dry. Remove stems and cook.

Try collard greens in Sauteed Snapper with Curried Greens and these Smoky Potato and Green Tacos.