How to Clean Greens
Many people wonder how to clean collard greens, spinach, kale, lettuce and all other types of greens. Many people even wonder if greens should be washed in the first place. If they are brought in from the garden and full of dirt, the answer seems pretty obvious. If they are purchased from a market or in a bag, the answer isn’t quite as clear. So, let’s be clear. Cleaning greens is a necessary step that must always be done, whether by the packager or the purchaser.
Since we love shortcuts, let’s look at cleaning all types of greens in the easiest ways possible.
How to Clean Greens
Steps to Clean Greens
To properly wash any type of leafy green, there are three simple steps:
- Wash your hands.
This is always a first step when doing any food preparation, but still bears mentioning.
- Rinse the greens under running water while gently rubbing the leaves to remove any particles.
Alternately, or if you’ve got lots of greens to clean, place the greens into a large bowl and fill with cold water. Swish the greens around in the bowl and then remove them from the bowl. When dumping the water, note any dirt content or color change of the water. If the water is dirty, then repeat this step until the water remaining in the bowl is clean and clear.
- Dry the greens. This can be done in one of three ways:
A) Place the greens in a colander,
or B) Lay the greens on a clean kitchen towel to air dry for a bit, gently rubbing with the towel to eliminate excess moisture,
or C) Put them into a clean pillowcase and tightly hold the opening while spinning the sack in a circle above your head.
Even during Covid, that’s all it takes to clean greens.
If you have a salad spinner, it works great for cleaning all types of leafy greens:
Place greens into the basket, add water and swish them around with your hand. Let them soak for a minute to give any dirt a chance to fall off before removing the basket and dumping the water. If the dumped water is clear, then spin away. Otherwise, repeat the cleaning with fresh water until it does exit clear before spinning. Be sure to remove the basket of greens before dumping the water to ensure that the fallen dirt is not re-introduced to the greens.
Greens such as leeks, fennel and lemongrass can harbor a lot of grit between the layers. We recommend cutting them for use before washing and then placing them into a bowl of cold water. Swish them around to release any dirt and always remove the greens from the water before dumping the water. Drain the greens onto a clean dish towel or in a colander.
Cabbage comes with its own wrapper. Simply place the head into the refrigerator and then remove the outer leaves and rinse before using.
What about Pre-washed Greens?
Good news here. The price of prepared greens and salad mixes includes the prep work of washing the greens. In fact, most of them are now tripe washed. Let’s face it, the factory probably did a better job washing them than we possibly could, especially if they did it three times! We used to re-wash bagged greens when they first came out, but now feel that it is totally unnecessary. In fact, the International Association for Food Protection feels that there is a much greater risk of cross contamination if these bagged greens are washed at home than simply using them straight from the bag. .
Store greens wrapped first in a clean dish towel and then in a plastic produce bag. This storage method will keep greens fresh for about five days, depending on the type of green. See our individual pages for more information on storage and shelf life of various greens.
How to Clean Greens
To find out how long kale lasts, see our kale page.
To find out how long spinach lasts, see our spinach page.
To find out how long lettuce lasts, see our lettuce page.
For the crispiest (and cleanest) lettuce possible, see our hot to crisp lettuce post.
For help with washing mushrooms, see our mushroom page.
Don’t wash berries and grapes until just before use, see our raspberry page for more information on berry storage..
For the best way to keep potatoes from turning brown, see our brown potatoes FAQ post.