Each year I work on learning how to preserve homegrown lettuce from the garden to stay fresh and crisp. And since we’re all in winter gardening mode, and yes that includes Florida, I bet you’re wondering how to preserve your homegrown lettuce, also.
I’ve learned a few tips and tricks over the years to keeping your romaine lettuce, butter lettuce, you-name-it-lettuce crisp and fresh until you’re ready to use it.
How to preserve lettuce from the garden longer, keeping it crisp and fresh until used.
Taking lettuce out of the fridge for a refreshing salad just to find it’s limp and curling at the edges is a bummer. Taking freshly harvesting lettuce out to find the same thing might be worse.
You work so hard on growing beautiful salad greens, just to let them shrivel up a day after your harvest? Not anymore!
The days of wasting your fresh, homegrown goods are gone. Learn how to keep your homegrown lettuce fresh equally as long, or longer than, the store-bought!
Different types of lettuce
It’s important to understand the different varieties of lettuce when you’re choosing which crop to grow. When it comes to backyard gardens, you’ll mainly find romaine and butterhead lettuces.
Romaine lettuces are a hard-leaf lettuce variety, often harvested as a full head, but you can also harvest the leaves slowly as they grow. When romaine has completely its growth, the head of lettuce is shaped like a long, narrow football with layers of luscious crisp leaves.
You can enjoy romaine’s eloquent tasting leaves in salads, on sandwiches or any other way you prefer to eat lettuce. Romaine is one of the easiest lettuces to preserve.
Butterhead lettuce is among the soft-leaf lettuce varieties. This loose-leaf lettuce develops a sweeter tasting crop that develops a loose-head, making it a perfect cut-and-come-again crop to grow in your garden.
With a light, buttery palate and soft, smooth leaves butterhead lettuce is the perfect sandwich condiment. Due to butterhead lettuce’s softer nature, it’s rendered one of the more difficult lettuces to preserve. But not impossible!
How to preserve lettuce for it to stay crisp
Don’t wash it
Although your first reaction after harvesting might be to wash your goodies, try to resist. Washing your hard-leafed lettuce can add moisture to the leaves leading them to wilting a little quicker.
Check the paper towel often and switch it out once it’s saturated.
If you wash your lettuce, dry it very well
If you’re dealing with soft-leaf lettuce, lightly rinse your lettuce and either air-dry on towels or lightly spin them in a salad spinner.
The key when increasing the freshness of soft-leaf lettuce is to decrease levels of moisture as much as possible. I store my loose, soft-leaf lettuce in either plastic baggies or these great reusable baggies.
Be sure to not overstuff the baggies and add a paper towel to suck up the moisture!
Invest in quality storage containers
Investing into quality storage containers for any reason is a good idea. The same applies with preserving your freshly harvest, homegrown lettuce.
I’ve been using these amazing produce storage containers for about a year now and they never disappoint. I store broccoli, peppers, beans, my lettuce and my more in them.
In fact, I bought a head of romaine lettuce over the summer and embarrassingly enough, I forgot about it. When I pulled the container out about 2 weeks later, the lettuce was barely turning color.
You can also use mason jars for storage as well. I found this great new shop called “Mason Jars Makerplace” where you can buy different types of tops for the jars!
I have these great flip tops that work wonders if I want to store a small amount of long-stemmed herbs. Fill the jar with water, add the top and slip your herbs right in!
Whenever I buy hard-leafed lettuce like romaine, I don’t wash it. I wrap it with one paper towel before putting them in my handy storage containers.
Make sure you check the paper towel every 3-6 days, replacing the towel when it’s damp. Putting a paper towel in with your lettuce pulls the moisture from the crop, helping to preserve that crisp yummy goodness!
Keep an eye on it
If you’re planning a large harvest day, make sure you keep an eye on your produce after. It’s so unfortunate when you harvest a nice crop and forget about it for a little too long.
Don’t worry too much though because there’s a quick tip to reviving lettuce that has started wilting!
Leave it in the garden
When growing soft-leaf lettuce, consider leaving your crop in the garden before you’re ready to enjoy it. Butterhead lettuces are great for a slow harvest as long as it stays cool in all methods of gardening.
This way you can have your lettuce and eat it, too!
For hard-leaf lettuces (think romaine) consider practicing succession planting. By practicing succession planting with romaine lettuce, you’ll have a steady crop of fully formed heads of lettuce all season long. You can do this with any crop! Here’s a visual example!
Download the image below (for free)!
How to harvest lettuce
Depending on the variety on lettuce, your harvest method will vary. Harvesting methods will also vary according to how you plan to enjoy your harvest.
For all varieties, harvest your lettuce just before maturity as the best taste is achieved by a young and tender crop. Once lettuce starts reaching maturity or passes maturity, it will turn progressively bitter and go bad quickly.
Harvest early in the morning before the sun is in full force as the leaves will be crisp and ‘well-rested’. For looseleaf varieties, use a sharp pair of small snips to gently clip the leaves away. For full-head varieties, use a sharp knife or harvest sickle to make one clean cut, removing the full head.
- It’s best to harvest lettuce in the morning before leaves have been exposed to sun.
- As time passes and the plant loses vigor, you may be better off planting a second round of seeds than waiting for new leaves.
- Keep lettuce in the refrigerator for up to 10 days in a loose plastic bag
Here’s a handy table to help you determine when to harvest your variety of lettuce.
|Type||Looseleaf lettuce||Crisphead lettuce||Romaine lettuce||Butterhead lettuce|
|Variety||Ruby; Prizehead; Grand Rapids; Deer Tongue; Black Seeded Simpson; Green Ice; Lollo Rosso; Red Sails||Iceberg; Crisphead Great Lakes; Igloo; Webbs Wonderful||Cimarron;|
Forellenschluss; Vivian; EZ Serve;
|Boston; Bibb; Buttercrunch; Four Seasons; Tom Thumb; Bronze Mignonette; Yugoslavian Red|
|How to harvest||Harvest as needed/ongoing||Harvest full head with one clean cut at the base||Harvest as needed/ongoing or wait for full-head is formed||Harvest as needed/ongoing|
How to revive lettuce after it has started to wilt
Did you harvest lettuce about a week ago and forget about it? Did you go to make your afternoon salad and realize you have a case of limp lettuce?
I told you there was a quick tip for if your lettuce starts to wilt! If your lettuce is a little wilted, add ice to some cold water and submerge your lettuce for 10 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the hardiness of the variety.
Your lettuce should start perking right up! This trick works with almost every vegetable, including fragile salad greens. For thicker, stalkier vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, etc. just put the stalk edge in a jar of water.
Don’t forget to download the image below (for free!)
Can you freeze lettuce?
I’ve often wondered if it’s possible to freeze lettuce to keep it fresh. My initial response would be no, since lettuce is a more tender vegetable.
It turns out that you can freeze almost anything and, although I haven’t personally tried it, you can read more about freezing lettuce here.
TL;DR? You’ll want to make sure your lettuce is completely dry before putting it in your freezer. Lettuce can easily wilt and moisture will aid in that process.
Preserving lettuce: Conclusion
Part of homesteading is often learning how to eat locally and seasonally. If you pay close attention, for example, you’ll notice that products such as berries are more affordable in the warmer months (depending where you are).
When eating lettuce, it will usually have to be fresh if you’re using it for salads and such. But if you use these tips and tricks, though, you can extend your harvest for weeks to months.
What’s your favorite type of lettuce to grow? Drop a comment below!
The winner of the giveaway is Gail from Wisconsin! Thank you to all that participated.
Check out all of our cohosts’ great garden information:
How to Choose the Best Garden Space from The Self-Sufficient HomeAcre
Choosing the Best Garden Seeds from Homegrown Self-Reliance
How to Grow Food in Just 3-4 Weeks from Oak Hill Homestead
Theme Gardens – How to cultivate fun, flavor & ‘buzz’ by The Farm Wife
How to establish a fantastic edible food forest easily by 15 Acre Homestead
Step-by-step plan on how to get your seeds started for a Spring garden by Bloom Where You’re Planted