How to Store Leafy Greens to Keep Them Fresh in the Fridge

Throwing out bunches of spinach, kale, and lettuce that go limp and slimy before their time? Try these tips.

Photo: Jill Giardino/

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Tender greens such as arugula, baby spinach and lettuce can last up to a week in the fridge when stored properly, while hardy leafy greens like kale, cabbage and chard can last a bit longer than that – when stored properly. Knowing how to store leafy greens in the fridge longer is key.

Clinical nutritionist and author Cathy Serif is a self-proclaimed expert on greens.

“I buy them fresh every couple of days,” she says. “My favorite are baby spinach and spring mix. I’m constantly at the market; I should own stock in grocery stores!”

Often, only a few days after you bring home leafy greens, they become slimy, wilted and inedible. It’s enough to swear them off for good – but don’t give up yet. These tips will keep them fresh longer.

Store Leafy Greens Separately

It’s easy to come home from a grocery trip and toss your produce into your fridge without a second thought, but take heed of where you put your leafy greens. They’re sensitive to fruits that release ethylene gas (known as the ripening hormone).

Below is a list of ethylene producers and ethylene sensitive foods to store on opposite ends of the fridge.

Ethylene producers

  • Cantaloupe
  • Avocados
  • Apples
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes

Ethylene sensitive

  • Collard greens
  • Lettuce
  • Baby spinach
  • Cabbage

Avoid Washing Right Away

When you get home from the grocery, store your greens in the fridge. Only when you’re ready to eat or prepare the greens, put them in a colander and rinse thoroughly, plucking any already-wilted or damaged leaves.

“I know many people wash their greens first,” says Seif. “but it is my experience working with greens frequently, especially for juicing, that they get slimy if washed before stored in containers.”

Afterwards, dry your greens by patting them down with a paper towel. Any lasting moisture will only expedite the wilting process.

“When you do wash leafy greens, don’t use soap!” Adds Serif. “Soap will leave a residue that isn’t safe to ingest.”

From there, you can choose one of the following storage methods to keep those greens fresher for longer.

The Bagging Method

One way to keep your greens fresh is to store them in an airtight container bag (we recommend Stasher’s reusable bags) with a paper towel folded inside. This will absorb any moisture that might accumulate to prevent early rotting.

If you’re transferring your greens into an airtight container, stretch the paper towel across the top before securing the lid.

Freeze for Later

To keep your leafy greens fresh in the freezer, you first need to blanch them.

Blanching is easy: Toss your greens into a pot of boiling water (in small batches) and let sit for two minutes. For spinach specifically, let boil for 90 seconds. Note: Start the timer when the water begins boiling again after dropping the greens in.

Afterwards, take your greens out and cool them in a bowl of ice or ice water for the same amount of time they were boiling. Drain, dry and freeze in airtight freezer bags or containers. Your greens should then stay fresh for 8-12 months.

On the Counter

Some leafy greens like kale, chard and beet tops can be stored on your kitchen counter in a glass of water, much like a bouquet of flowers. Make sure to trim the ends before setting them in a glass of cold water and spritz daily.

“As far as fresh herbs, I keep them stored in the fridge, in a mason jar (lid off) with the stems in water to increase their lifespan,” Serif says. “Or with herbs such as basil, I’ll buy the plant and pluck the leaves as needed. This is the freshest way possible to eat basil, or other herbs as well!”

Buy Less More Often

In the United States, food waste is approximately 30-40 percent of the food supply. 28 percent of that is produce being tossed by consumers at home. One lifestyle alteration you can make to combat this is purchasing your fresh produce more often in lesser quantities.

“For me, buying my veggies and leafy greens in small batches is the freshest way to go,” Serif says. “So everything holds up well because it’s only around for a couple of days at most.”


RELATED: Buy These Ingredients When You Want to Eat Healthy on a Smaller Grocery Budget

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