Green leafy vegetables are one of the most nutrient-dense foods to include in a balanced, healthy diet. They are rich in minerals – calcium, magnesium and vitamin K and folic acid, and they are a great source of fibre.
I always suggest having a wide variety of green leafy vegetables – eating some raw – such as lettuces and herbs, and then some cooked – such as spinach and Asian greens and then adding in some tasty herbs – coriander, parsley, chives and so on.
Personally, I like to grow as many of my own green leafy vegetables in my garden, and although some might say this is a luxury, I say it’s a necessity.
There are a few reasons why I suggest, as much as possible, growing your green leafy vegetables at home.
Firstly, the price of store-bought green vegetables can really cut into your grocery budget – especially if they are turning to slime in the bottom of your fridge.
Secondly, unless you’re buying organically grown produce, a majority of store-bought green leafy vegetables are heavily sprayed with pesticides – especially lettuces and English spinach.
Thirdly, with homegrown, you can pick as much as you need and leave the rest to grow in the garden, so there’s often not as much of an issue with storage.
Oh, and the other thing … many of the gourmet lettuces sold in supermarkets are grown hydroponically. You can spot hydroponic or ‘hydro’ lettuce by the little bunch of white roots attached to the lettuce, sometimes the white roots will be in a small plastic growing tube.
So what’s wrong with hydro lettuce then? Well hydroponic food is grown without a soil medium, the plants are fed a synthetic mix of nutrients to allow them to grow quickly and they are grown in an enclosed environment using ‘grow lights’. Obviously, hydroponics is a boon for growing plants in Antarctica or anywhere there is limited soil and sunlight. Plus the enclosed environment means the plants are exposed to less pests. But do you want to be eating hydro lettuce grown in manufactured nutrients with fake lighting?
Hmmm … so I’ve digressed a little.
As you have probably guessed, my suggestion is to grow as much as you can of your own green leafy vegetables and buy the rest (where possible) from local organic growers or trade produce with your friends or neighbours.
But of course, there comes a time when you have a bunch of green leafy vegetables that you will want to store in the fridge, ‘cause you can’t use them all up immediately.
So how do you keep your green leafy vegetables from turning into a pile of slime in your crisper, without resorting to plastics?
First method – The Vase of Greens
One of my personal favourites for storing leafy greens in the most simple and old-fashioned ways. Simply grab a large, wide-mouth glass jar from your cupboard, make sure the jar (ok, let’s call it a glass vase) is clean and fill it with filtered water and pop in your leafy greens.
This method works well for long-stemmed greens and herbs picked from the garden – think basil, dill, parsley and mint. For those creative types, you can make your greens into a pretty posy and have it on your kitchen counter while you are cooking – pick your greens fresh as you are preparing your meals and then pop them in the fridge once you’re done.
- Quick, simple and easy – no special equipment required.
- The plants stay ‘alive’ in the water, and if cared for appropriately may re-shoot and form another plant.
- Doesn’t work well in a small fridge.
- Only suitable for greens with a large stem – basil, mint etc.
- The water needs to be changed daily to prevent mould and slime
Second Method – Newspaper Wrapping
Another good, old-fashioned way of keeping your leafy greens fresh in the fridge is to wrap them in moistened newspaper. Yep, this is what our parents would have done before everyone noticed that plastic kept everything sealed and fresh.
With the movement away from printed newspapers, many households have forgotten that this was the chosen method for keeping your leafy greens, and many other vegetables fresh in the fridge.
The key with newspaper wrapping for your leafy greens is to keep the newspaper moist. The crisper drawer is ideal for this method, and I like to have a spray bottle handy to spritz the newspaper each day if it dries out.
If you don’t have a supply of newspapers handy at home, you can scrounge some from your local newsagent and ask them if they have any leftover unsold newspapers that you can use.
- Simple, economical and no special equipment is required.
- Great for those short on space in the fridge.
- The spent newspaper can be added to your compost.
- Your greens will dry out if you don’t rehydrate the newspaper.
- You’ll need a supply of newspapers if you don’t buy them anymore.
Method Three – The Purpose-Built Cloth Veggie Bag
There are a few manufacturers who have found or located the technology to make use of natural fibres for keeping vegetables fresh. One Australian brand that I have found is The Swag Produce Bags. Their bags are made from entirely natural ingredients (even the stitching is cotton) and they have special layers of fabric that keep your vegetables fresh – allowing them to breathe properly and not dry out.
You start by moistening the bag with water and adding your freshly washed greens to the bag. Check daily to ensure that the bag and contents are clean and moist. Your bags need to be washed thoroughly each week or fortnight.
- Green leafy vegetables generally keep fresher longer than the above two methods.
- The bags are easy to clean and machine-washable.
- These bags aren’t necessarily cheap, so they can be a bit of a financial investment.
- I’ve found that the bags tend to get a bit smelly between washes.
Method Four – The Silicone Pouch
You’ve probably got something made out of silicone somewhere in your kitchen – spatula, cupcake moulds or iceblock trays. Silicone is the modern alternative for almost everything plastic or otherwise in the kitchen space. It is resistant to a wide range of temperatures, doesn’t leach chemicals into foods and is touted as an all-around miracle cure for our plastic addiction.
But what is silicone? Well, it’s not actually a plastic (well, not really anyway), it is considered to be a hybrid of synthetic rubber and a synthetic plastic polymer. So for those who are looking for the most environmentally, biodegradable and compostable way of keeping your green leafies fresh, this may not be the best solution, but it seems that silicone is the way of the kitchen future.
- Easy to clean, hard-wearing and non-toxic / low-allergenic.
- If you care for your silicone kitchen pouches properly, they will last a long time!
- A little bit of a pricy investment.
- Can be a bit tricky to find the right-sized pouches for your produce (the bigger ones can be a bit bulky in a small fridge).
- Similar to storing in plastic bags, Your veggies will ‘sweat’ in silicone pouches.
- Not technically an entirely ‘natural’ alternative to plastic.
I’ve tried all of these methods over the years and I’ve found that each one has a few advantages and disadvantages – there’s no one magic solution for all of your needs.
I would encourage you to try the most economical and biodegradable methods first and then look at investing in more long-term solutions for keeping your green leafy vegetables fresh in storage.
Perhaps there are some other methods for keeping greens fresh without plastics that you have tried – let me know, I’d love to hear about your experiences.
The information provided in this article is for information purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. We recommend you consult with a GP or other healthcare professional before taking action based on this article. While the author uses their best endeavours to provide accurate and true content, the author makes no guarantees or promises regarding the accuracy, reliability, or completeness of the information presented. If you rely on any information provided in this article, you do so at your own risk.