Because it isn’t cooked, lettuce needs extra care and attention before being eaten, as any contaminants that stick to the leafy surface won’t be eliminated by heating. Here’s the series of steps we recommend following when washing lettuce.
- Start by washing your hands. You can’t clean something if your hands aren’t clean first. The same rule applies before handling any food.
- Remove the exterior leaves on whole heads of lettuce. Throw away wilted or discoloured and soiled leaves.
- Wash your hands again to remove any dirt or grime picked up while handing the exterior parts of the lettuce.
- Wash each leaf one at a time under cold running water while gently rubbing the surface of both sides of the lettuce leaf. Rinse and place on a clean tea towel or in a salad spinner. (Fact: kitchen-curious kids love to help with the salad spinner.)
- Drain in a colander or give a thorough whirl in the salad spinner and store in a clean food-grade bag before use. Don’t just reuse the same bag the lettuce came in.
If you’re short on time and don’t mind spending more for convenience, you can use one of the many pre-washed bagged salads now common in grocery stores. As long as it clearly states on the sealed container or bag that it has been pre-washed, it should be safe to eat without washing.
If you go the bagged salad route, make sure you check the bag for any wilted or disintegrated bits of lettuce, and keep an eye on the expiry date. Once opened, bagged salads can quickly lose their freshness, so don’t buy more than you can use in a day or two.