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How to preserve lettuce: Tips and tricks to preserving lettuce

I’ve been learning how to preserve homegrown lettuce from the garden to stay crisp and fresh longer. Outside of utilizing the crisper drawer, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks over the years. Learn how to keep your lettuce crisp and fresh longer so you can grow your garden and eat it, too.

preserving lettuce

How to preserve lettuce from the garden longer, keeping it crisp and fresh until used.

Taking lettuce out of the crisper drawer to find it limp and curling at the edges as it starts to turn brown is a bummer.

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, The days of wasting your fresh, homegrown goods are gone. Learn how to keep your homegrown lettuce fresh as long, or longer than, store-bought lettuce! 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 choosing which one 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, you can also harvest the leaves slowly as they grow. When romaine is fully matured, 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, etc. 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. It develops a loosehead, making it a perfect cut-and-come-again crop to grow in your garden. Butterhead’s light, buttery palate and soft, smooth leaves make it the perfect sandwich lettuce.

How to preserve lettuce for it to stay crisp

Don’t wash it

Although your first action 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 wilt a little quicker.

For lettuces like romaine, it’s best to harvest them as a whole head and add them to a quality storage container. I wrap mine with a paper towel to soak any excess moisture.

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 using soft-leaf lettuce, rinse your lettuce and either air-dry on towels or gently spin them in a salad spinner.

The key when maintaining the freshness of soft-leaf lettuce is to eliminate excess moisture. I store my loose, soft-leaf lettuce in either plastic baggies or 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, Investing in quality storage containers for any reason is a good idea. The same applies to preserving your freshly harvested, homegrown lettuce.

I’ve been using these produce storage containers for about a year now and they never disappoint. I store broccoli, peppers, beans, my lettuce and my more in them.

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!

Make it yours with reCap mason jar lids.

Wrap it

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. Less moisture means preserving lettuce to be fresh longer. #Winning

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. There’s a quick tip to reviving lettuce that has started wilting!

Leave it in the garden

It’s best to leave your soft-leaf lettuce in the garden until 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. Practicing succession planting with romaine lettuce provides an ongoing harvest of lettuce all season long. You can do this with any crop. Here’s a visual example:

Download the image below (for free)!

succession planting - romaine lettuce

How to harvest lettuce

Depending on the variety of 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. The best taste is achieved with a young and tender crop. Once lettuce reaches or passes maturity, it will turn start tasting bitter and spoil quicker.

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 the sun.
  • As time passes and the plant loses vigor, planting a second round of seeds than waiting for new leaves is recommended.
  • 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.

TypeLooseleaf lettuceCrisphead lettuceRomaine lettuceButterhead lettuce
VarietyRuby; Prizehead; Grand Rapids; Deer Tongue; Black Seeded Simpson; Green Ice; Lollo Rosso; Red SailsIceberg; Crisphead Great Lakes; Igloo; Webbs WonderfulCimarron;
Forellenschluss; Vivian; EZ Serve;
Little Caesar;
Little Gem;
Parris Island;
Paris White
Boston; Bibb; Buttercrunch; Four Seasons; Tom Thumb; Bronze Mignonette; Yugoslavian Red
How to harvestHarvest as needed/ongoingHarvest full head with one clean cut at the baseHarvest as needed/ongoing or wait for full-head is formedHarvest 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 that has started to turn brown?

I told you there was a quick tip for if your lettuce starts to wilt! Add ice to cold water and submerge your lettuce for 10 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the hardiness of the variety. 

Butterhead lettuce is a prime candidate for this trick. Iceberg is not as the lettuce is far too fragile and won’t withstand the ice crystals that will form on the leaves.

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!)

preserving lettuce image

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 tried it, you can read more about freezing lettuce here.

TL;DR? Here are the most important points from the above article:

  • A vacuum sealer is recommended as it’s easier to remove all the air in the bag. This provides a better chance that your lettuce will freeze efficiently and sufficiently.
  • Quality freezer bags can also assure that you get a perfect freeze. *The most important objective is to remove all or as much air from the bag as you can.
  • Do not overcrowd your freezer bags.
  • Make sure your lettuce is completely dry before putting it in the freezer bag. Lettuce can easily wilt and excess water and moisture will aid in that process.
  • Heartier varieties of lettuce are the best candidates for freezing, such as Butterhead (my favorite).

It’s important to note you won’t be able to make salads with your frozen lettuce: quality freezer bag or not. I promise you honesty on this blog and honesty is what I’ll give ya.

It’s suggested to use frozen lettuce within six months of freezing. You won’t be able to make salads, but frozen lettuce can be added to soups, quiches, stir fry dishes and casseroles. If your lettuce is frozen correctly, you can thaw out full leaves in the fridge and use them as wraps.

You can also puree lettuce and freeze them in bags or ice cube trays. Dried lettuce is also an option. Creativity belongs in the garden and the kitchen.

Preserving lettuce: Conclusion

Part of homesteading is often learning how to eat locally and seasonally. Pay close attention and, for example, you’ll notice that products such as berries are more affordable in the warmer months (depending on 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!

Don’t forget to pin this for later!

preserving lettuce

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

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One Comment

  1. Thank so much for sharing All the good info I’m looking forward to learning how to keep my veggies as fresh as possible and the different approaches to doing that.

    To be continued Steve Thanx’s