Moving Towards A Plastic-Free Refrigerator
Notoriously quick to wilt and rot, leafy greens can keep fresh for nearly a week when stored correctly, and the best way to do that doesn’t involve a single plastic bag! Besides being one of the largest forms of pollution on our planet and oceans, plastic doesn’t break down and BPA, the toxic chemical found in plastic, can leach out into our produce, eventually making its way into our bodies, as well.
The good news? There is more awareness about the effects plastic has on our food than ever before, so the real challenge is deciding which option to choose! Not to worry, preserving your greens plastic-free is simple, easy and budget-friendly to boot.
Got a seriously delicious farmer’s market haul that you don’t want to see go to waste? Here’s how to store your greens without plastic.
Cloth Options for Plastic-Free Food Storage
Reusable organic cotton bags have become a popular plastic alternative for buying and storing produce and other food items, simply because they are so effective. These cost-effective bags are easy to store in your grocery tote bags or even handbag for instant access at the grocery store. They’re also pretty awesome for keeping food fresh sans plastic.
Here are a few great choices and the best ways to use them.
Organic cotton bags
Lightweight, versatile and durable, cotton produce bags like ones from Ecobags have a drawstring on top that are great for grocery shopping and food storage at home. These are good for food shopping but not recommended for keeping greens fresh in the fridge.
Cloth mesh bags
Similar to the organic cotton bag, this mesh version has large woven perforated holes to allow ventilation. A great option for transporting leafy greens from the store but not great for storage. However, you can preserve hardier produce in these, just avoid the greens.
French Terry Bags
The company Vejibags makes a great french terry cloth bag that is a plastic-free alternative for keeping leafy greens crisp and flavorful. Although I have not tried this one myself, they claim that you can store your greens in this bag alone for ultimate freshness. If you have tried this method or plan on doing so, let me know how it works!
Furoshiki Kitchen Towel
A kitchen miracle, the Furoshiki kitchen towel is a sturdy cloth towel that is meant to replace single-use items in your kitchen. Using it for cleaning, storing produce, food and even as an apron are some of the many ways this versatile item comes in handy.
Other plastic-free food storage options
Stainless steel or glass containers
Reusable ziploc/storage bag
How to Store Leafy Greens Without Plastic
Leafy greens include lettuce, arugula, mustard greens, dandelion greens, watercress, spinach, kale, chard, and cabbage. These veggies are best kept in a loosely closed bag or sealed glass container, uncrowded and completely dry.
Remove all stems, twist ties, rubber bands and other packaging items
Wash and dry your produce thoroughly (invest in a salad spinner if you don’t have one!)
Option one: Wrap loosely in a tea towel or bento cloth and tie a loose knot to close. Don’t pack the greens in tightly, as that will cause them to rot quicker. Instead, allow them to have some room to breathe by loosely placing the greens inside the towel. Place the wrapped greens in a glass food storage container in a cooler part of your fridge, like a crisper or towards the back. This is your best bet for not only preserving your greens but keeping them the most fresh.
Option two: Place your washed and dried greens in a loosely sealed reusable food storage bag. Again, give them some room and make sure they are completely dried before storing them and keep them in a cool spot. Since this isn’t the best method, your greens may rot faster so eat them up quick!
If you're using a terry cloth bag like one from Vejibag, you can rinse and shake off the greens—no need to dry completely. Store them damp in the refrigerator for ultimate freshness!
Option three: Freeze your greens! If your CSA box came with enough arugula to last you until next summer, consider freezing your greens to lock in the freshness and flavor. Here’s how:
Blanche the greens by bringing a pot of water to rolling boil and placing your greens in with tongs one by one
Boil for no more than 30 seconds and add them to a bowl of ice (this shocks them and keeps them crisp rather than wilting)
Completely dry the greens in a colander and pat lightly with a towel
Roll them up tightly in a ball and wrap tightly in beeswax wrap then transfer to the freezer for 2-3 minutes
When they have frozen you can transfer them to a reusable food storage bag and leave them in the freezer for your next meal of greens!
A Few More Tips on Keeping Your Greens Fresh...
Wash your greens before you store them. Not only does a good wash clean off any dirt or debris, it also rehydrates your greens to help keep them crisp and fresh.
After you wash your greens allow them to dry completely. The moisture will encourage wilting more quickly. Use a salad spinner or air dry your veggies before storing them.
If you have room, place a bunch of hardy greens like kale upright in a cup of water (just like a bouquet) to keep them ultra fresh.
Katherine Oakes is a professional writer, editor and aspiring environmental advocate based on the East Coast. Her passion for sustainability and the outdoors comes only second to her love of really good tacos. She has written for various publications and brands including, Huckberry Journal, REI’s Adventure Projects, Pure Green Magazine and more. Offline, you can find her teaching yoga or blogging about her wholehearted attempts at sustainable living at The Basic Goods.