Follow Us

Follow Me on Pinterest


How to Store your Leafy Greens to Make them Last Longer

Spinach, swiss chard, kale, romaine, lambsquarter… leafy greens are the most nutritious things you can eat. We’ve spent a lot of time learning how to prepare them in ways that make them enjoyable to eat. But they are delicate, and we only go to the market on Saturdays. Wilted, soggy, rotting greens are nasty. How can you keep them fresh for a whole week? Here is what we have learned…

The overarching strategy:

  1. Immediately get rid of any bad leaves, because it’s true that one bad apple ruins the bunch, due to Ethylene.
  2. Keep the greens whole, unless you are using them in the next day or two (see #5).
  3. Get the greens as dry as you can and help them stay dry.
  4. Store the greens properly.
  5. Sequence your meals around the shelf life of your greens, e.g.: fresh salads first, sautés last.

Here are the details:

When we get home from the market on Saturday morning we spend time (up to an hour if we have a lot) sorting, trimming, washing, and sometimes even prepping all of the greens that we bought for the week. It’s a pain and we hate doing it, but it makes cooking for the rest of the week much quicker and easier.

Even so, the real reason we do it is that it makes the greens stay fresh much longer than just shoving them in the fridge and dealing with them later. We do something similar for root vegetables (we remove greens and scrub dirt), but that’s a separate post.

The steps:

  1. Go through the greens and discard any leaves that don’t look good. As they age and wilt, fruits and vegetables release Ethelyne, a gas which triggers other fruits and vegetables to ripen / wilt / rot faster. If there are any in the mix that are already pretty far gone, they will kick off the wilting process as soon as you store the bunch in the fridge. Tossing these will delay the process by a few days.
  2. Trim off any stalks or other pieces that you won’t be using, such as the ends of stems or stalks.
  3. Make sure that your sink is empty of dishes. Give it a quick cleaning and fill it with water. Throw in the greens, one type at a time. Agitate them around to shake off any dirt or sand. Then let them sit for a few minutes so that the grime falls to the bottom as the greens float on top. If we have a smaller amount of greens, we will do this directly in our salad spinner instead of filling the whole sink.

    Wash and spin the greensAlternate washing method:  do it IN the spinner

  4. Remove the greens from the sink while being careful not to agitate the water and stir up too much dirt. If you have more greens to clean, leave the water in the sink. If you washed the greens in the spinner, just lift up the basket and dump out the dirty water. Spin them in a salad spinner, in batches if necessary. We usually spin once, pour out the water and shuffle the leaves around, and then spin a second time.

    Optional: If you are going to use the greens in the next day or two, you might as well chop them now. If not, they will store better whole.

  5. Lay out a thin (clean) towel (we have these really terrific, big tea towels / flour sack towels; paper towels also work in a pinch). Spread the greens out in a thin layer across the towel. Try not to go any more than two or three leaves deep in any spot. If necessary, fold the towel over and add a second layer.

    Lay the greens out on a towel or paper towel

  6. Roll the towel up tightly and secure it with a rubber band. This process not only dries the leaves now, but storing them in the towel will continue to wick away moisture the entire time the greens are stored in the fridge.

    Roll the towelRubber-band the towel

  7. Place the rolled-up towel of greens into a bag. We use green bags. I know, I saw these on TV too and thought they were a joke. But they really do let Ethylene escape, extending the life of whatever produce you store in them. Regular bags, especially Ziploc, trap the Ethylene and accelerate the aging.

    Bag the towel (green bags work best)

  8. Finally, we use our greens, when we can and when we think of it, in an order:
    1. If we’re planning to eat any of the greens raw, e.g. in a salad, we do it early in the week. As greens age, they get more bitter and less tender.
    2. If we’re planning any recipes where cooked greens are the star of the show, we make those by mid-week. The greens can wait a little longer, since they’re cooked.
    3. Finally, if we have any greens left at the end of the week, we cook them and use them as an accent, e.g. pizza topping or frittata.

    As an example, here’s a meal plan for one week in May:

    • Mixed green salad with sunflower thyme pesto (Monday)
    • Swiss chard with pinenuts and grain (Tuesday)
    • Herb salad with curry dressing (Wednesday)
    • Asparagus with “cheezy” sauce (Thursday)
    • Mashed sweet potatoes with ribbons of collard greens (Friday)


Two related points that I should have made:

  • We have been reusing the green bags for about one year now and they are still going strong. We wash them inside and out with dish soap and rinse thoroughly. After a while we invested in a bag drying rack to make things easier.
  • For shopping at the market, we initially used the green bags, but that wasn’t a good system because the market-fresh produce got the bags dirty, so where to put the produce after we’ve cleaned it?! We found a better set of market bags: washable fine mesh bags.

    They can get wet, are machine washable, and you don’t need to worry about plastic bags at the market. They weigh next to nothing, so if you are paying by the pound it won’t hurt.

18 comments to How to Store your Leafy Greens to Make them Last Longer

  • Jen

    Thanks for the great info! We are too lazy with storing all our produce and sometimes I think it’s taking over the whole fridge. Can you reuse those green bags?

  • Jen

    Uh, never mind. I just followed your link and it says re-usable right in the name!

    • Erik

      The way that we wound up with them was that about a year ago, when we first started in earnest with the local cooking, Lindsay’s mom bought us a box of the As-Seen-on-TV Debbie Meyer’s Green Bags.

      We shrugged and laughed and thought it was infomercial junk, but then we tried them, and they actually worked. Then we looked into WHY, and it made sense. Ours come in a few sizes, which I actually find annoying. If I were to buy them I’d go with the ones we linked to.

      We’ve used the same bags for one year so far. We just wash them inside and out and rinse. It helps that we bought this drying rack.


  • bradxray

    I was having the same problem with most of my veggies wilting. Just treat them like roses. Even if they are alreay wilted, they will perk right up. Here is a video on it.

  • Millie

    We have a large vegetable garden. Green, leafy veggies are harvested, prepared for freezing and in the freezer within an hour or two, thereby retaining the nutritional value. (Most fresh produce has lost much of it’s nutrients by the time it reaches the grocery store.) I always cook some greens that require longer cooking, such as collards, to the ‘almost done’ stage and freeze. These can later be put in fridge to thaw while you’re at work, or thawed in the microwave. All you have to do then is season, cook a few minutes and serve. This is especially helpful if you buy them in bulk at a local farmers market.

  • Riddhi

    Eric, Thankyou !

  • Thanks! Just the info I needed. I’ve been buying way to much because it kept going bad on me too fast :/

  • I live somewhat secluded and have ample time to search the web, I stumbled onto your blog post. You will most definately find me spending more time at your blog.

  • Grish

    Thank you! Your blog was very informatIve, I am gonna return to your lot more for the helpful tips.

  • Emalee Denardo

    Hi! I hope you still read these comments. I just discovered this page and the info is exactly what I need. BUT without the green bags, what can I use instead that I might have in a pinch today. do plastic grocery bags work? or cloth bags? Can I use ziplock and cut holes?



    • Erik

      We do still see all the comments!

      The idea of the green bags is simple to keep everything together (the “bag” part) while letting the gases escape that tend to cause rotting and wilting (the “green” part). I wouldn’t advise plastic grocery bags. Those will trap all the moisture, ethylene, and other gases. In theory cutting holes would work, although it would make it 100% permeable instead of selectively-permeable.

      When we run out of green bags, we just don’t use bags! We use the big flour sack towels as shown and then rubber band them to keep everything together. Occasionally we lose a spinach leaf as a result.


  • I see a lot of interesting posts on your website. You have to spend a lot of time writing,
    i know how to save you a lot of time, there is a tool that creates
    unique, SEO friendly articles in couple of minutes, just search in google
    - laranita’s free content source

  • Jennifer Andrews

    These are all good ideas for fresh stuff, but we grew 8 kale plants last year and frankly by the end of their looonggg growing season we were a little tired of it. I ended up harvesting probably 25 pounds of kale and in batches, washing, chopping and blanching all of it and storing it in a little chest freezer in freezer bags, in recipe-sized amounts. I love soups and stews in winter and the kale, and this year probably the brussel sprouts and swiss chard will get the same treatment. I cooked and sliced and froze beets, since I didn’t have enough to can, and sliced cucumbers, mixed with a little rice wine vinegar and honey, along with sliced red bell pepper, and froze those too. They all thawed to make a nice winter fresh salad. This year we tried potatoes and all of them came up, so will be looking for a cool place to store them.

  • [...] reduce the amount of prep work you have come dinnertime.  But don’t take my word for it: Uber Detailed, Type-A instructions for doing all of that are included here For the C- Student: Dude, just rip off anything semi-gross, wrap that sucker in a paper towel [...]

  • [...] How to Store Your Leafy Greens to Make them Last Longer [Eat Local 365] How to Store Leafy Greens in the Fridge [The Sprouting Seed] Leafy Greens [Fresh Direct] Improving the Quality of Your Store Bought Leafy Greens [FitDay] [...]

  • [...] How to Store Your Leafy Greens to Make them Last Longer [Eat Local 365] How to Store Leafy Greens in the Fridge [The Sprouting Seed] Leafy Greens [Fresh Direct] Improving the Quality of Your Store Bought Leafy Greens [FitDay] [...]

  • [...] How to Store Your Leafy Greens to Make them Last Longer [Eat Local 365] How to Store Leafy Greens in the Fridge [The Sprouting Seed] Leafy Greens [Fresh Direct] Improving the Quality of Your Store Bought Leafy Greens [FitDay] [...]

  • [...] How to Store Your Leafy Greens to Make them Last Longer [Eat Local 365] How to Store Leafy Greens in the Fridge [The Sprouting Seed] Leafy Greens [Fresh Direct] Improving the Quality of Your Store Bought Leafy Greens [FitDay] [...]

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>