My family and I prefer to grow our own vegetables rather than buy them and sometimes we harvest way too much lettuce than we can consume. I have tried to add them in most of my recipes but we still end up with excess lettuce at the end of the week. So I looked for ways to preserve it and I stumbled upon freezing.
Yes, you heard that right. Freezing is a convenient way to keep food from spoiling and that also applies to lettuce. But unlike other food which stays the same even after being frozen, most varieties of lettuce may change after freezing.
Lettuce contains a lot of moisture which can form ice crystals when frozen. Because of this, freezing damages the cell walls which, in turn, wrinkles the lettuce. As a result, lettuce loses its crunchiness and may become limp after freezing.
Can You Freeze Lettuce?
You may no longer use frozen lettuce in making salads but fortunately, there are a lot of recipes available that can use frozen lettuce. You can steam them or add them in soups and casseroles, whichever way you want it.
Lettuce may last up to six months in the freezer compared to a few days in the fridge. Its shelf-life also depends on the variety of lettuce.
If stored in a refrigerator, looseleaf and butterhead lettuce generally lasts about 3 to 5 days. Romaine and iceberg varieties, on the other hand, can last up to a week.
Whatever the variety, the secret in making lettuce last long and minimizing the physical changes from freezing is to follow careful preparation and thawing techniques.
As with any food, moisture and exposure to air are the main enemies of food storage. Hence, it is very important to dry the lettuce first and to remove as much air as you can from the container before freezing.
In terms of preserving nutrients, when done correctly, freezing may help retain most of the nutritional value of lettuce compared to storing it in room temperature.
How To Freeze Lettuce
Freezing lettuce may require careful preparation but it’s actually pretty simple. Here are the steps on how to properly freeze your lettuce:
- Use freshly picked lettuce. Stale ones may not last long even if you put them in the freezer.
- Separate the leaves by pulling them apart from the base and wash them thoroughly.
- You may use a salad spinner to remove excess water. Paper towels can also be used. Just make sure to dry the leaves completely.
- It is better to store small portions of lettuce than putting them all in one container so you only have to thaw what you need at the time. Repeatedly thawing causes the leaves to wilt and increases bacterial growth.
- After drying and putting it in a container, don’t forget to remove the extra air. It’s also preferable to use freezer bags than plastic containers because you can squeeze out more air and you can lay the lettuce flat.
- Thaw it inside the refrigerator instead of the kitchen counter. However, if you’re going to mix it with something hot, you may use the lettuce directly.
- Don’t forget to label and date your lettuce!
Voila! You have successfully frozen your lettuce. You won’t have to worry about it for the next few weeks. Just don’t let it freeze for too long or you will end up with a green, slimy mess.
While you may no longer use it for fresh salads and dressings, frozen lettuce can still be used for a number of dishes. This easy lettuce salad with oyster sauce could a good place to start.
If you are looking for a hot and delicious way of using your frozen lettuce, you might want to give this creamy lettuce soup a try.
You could also grill your frozen lettuce using this simple recipe. Just add lemons, olive oil, and some parmesan.