Leafy greens are household staples and serve numerous uses. Here are 6 everyday leafy greens and their shelf life:
Kale is part of the Brassicaceae family of vegetables such as cabbages, lettuce, and broccoli. Unlike cabbages, the leaves of kale don’t form a head.
Kales are primarily grown for food, although some types are used as ornaments. There are many kale varieties based on the leaf structure. Examples are as follows: Curly kale, Siberian kale, ornamental kale, and dinosaur kale.
For health purposes, kale is one of the most nutrient-dense foods. Kale contains high levels of vitamins K, A, and C, phytonutrients, antioxidants, calcium, iron, magnesium, and sodium.
A single serving of kale provides you with more than the daily recommended amounts of vitamins. The green leaves are loaded with lutein, promoting healthy eyesight by preventing macular degeneration. Moreover, it is low in calories.
Ironically, despite the choke-full of nutrients, most people are put off by the somewhat bitter taste. You can still enjoy kales in green smoothies, throw a few leaves on a raw salad, bake them into kale chips or simply sauté them with garlic for a refreshing bite.
Shelf life of kale
Consume kale as fresh as possible to maximize the nutrients. Store fresh kale in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator. It keeps well for up to 2 weeks.
Cooked leftovers keep well for up to 5 days. You can freeze cooked kale for longer shelf life – up to 1 year.
Thought to have been first cultivated in Iran, spinach is a staple among the leafy greens. Cultivation spread to India and China.
Nowadays, spinach is a highly domesticated vegetable found in almost all parts of the globe.
There are several spinach types, the most common being Savoy, baby, and flat spinach. Their major differences stem from leaf size and texture.
Deliciously appropriate when both raw and cooked, you can use spinach in salads, smoothies, and sauté. You can never run out of options.
Spinach has high water content; hence avoid cooking it for long. Nutritionally, spinach is a great source of vitamins K, C, and A (due to carotenoids), folic acid, and minerals such as iron, potassium, calcium, and plant compounds and has small traces of roughage, protein, carbs, and fat. Besides this, spinach is a low-caloric food item, with a 100g serving containing roughly 23 calories.
Shelf life of spinach
Store spinach in the refrigerator to prevent wilting. Only wash the leaves when about to use them to prevent spoilage. For soiled ones, wipe off the dirt with a paper towel before refrigerating. Cut off excess stalks. Wrap well in plastic wrap or layer the leaves in a plastic bag. Well, refrigerated fresh, raw spinach keeps well for 1 week. Cooked leftovers can be refrigerated or frozen in small batches.
Collard greens have a striking resemblance to green cabbage and are sometimes referred to as wild cabbage. In fact, according to plant historians, collard greens originated from wild cabbage that had been wildly cultivated over 2,000 years ago in Eastern Europe.
Currently, collard greens are widespread globally and are enjoyed in many cuisines. You can use collard greens in salads, vegetable stews, steamed stir-fries, in smoothies, or use the leaves as wraps for encasing various fillings.
Collard greens have their fair share of nutritional goodness. They are an excellent source of minerals such as iron, copper, manganese, phosphorous, magnesium, and calcium. Additionally, they are rich in vitamins K, C, B1, B5, E, and B6. Collard greens also contain phytonutrients such as ferulic acid, flavonoids, and carotenoids, besides being a great source of dietary fiber.
Shelf life of collard greens
Like other food items, the shelf life of collard greens depends on the level of freshness. Refrigerate raw, fresh collard greens in the vegetable crisper. They keep well for up to 5 days. Freeze cooked collard greens in small portions. Use within 1 month at most.
You have probably referred to it as Swiss chard. Nevertheless, this leafy green has plenty of other pet names. Chard is also known as crab beet, Roman kale, mangold, or strawberry spinach.
Chard is synonymous with Mediterranean and French cuisine, although ancient records indicate its original cultivation in Sicily. Swiss chard is usually cooked since it tastes bitter when raw. This is due to oxalic acid.
Use the leaves on soups, sautéed vegetables, or as wrapping for refreshing dishes. The edible stalks are also prepared in various ways. You can use them separately or combine them with the leaves.
Chard is touted for their nutritional value. The leafy greens and stalks contain high levels of vitamins K, C, A, Bs, dietary fiber, beta-carotene, potassium, iron, and magnesium.
Shelf life of chard
Refrigerate and consume fresh chard within 3 days. Only wash when ready to use. Freeze any cooked leftovers. Alternatively, you can freeze chard leaves. Blanch for a few minutes before dipping them in ice-cold water. Pack them in portioned sizes in freezer bags. At a constant freezing temperature of 0°, frozen chard leaves keep well for up to 1 year.
This aquatic leafy green is an integral part of Mediterranean cuisine. It is believed to have been used by ancient Greeks, Persians, and Romans for medicinal purposes and to treat scurvy.
Watercress is widely cultivated in Asia, Europe, and the United States, although it is considered a native of Asia.
This crunchy leafy green is enjoyed in myriad ways, either fresh or cooked – in salads, sandwich fillings, smoothies, omelets, soups, and stir-fries. Watercress gives off a savory, peppery, fresh taste attributed to chemical compounds known as isothiocyanates. Nutritionally, watercress is packed with minerals like potassium, iron, calcium, vitamins E, C, A, Bs, folic acid, and beta-carotene.
Shelf life of watercress
Fresh watercress has a short shelf life. Refrigerate any unused leaves by laying them in heavy-duty plastic wraps. Use within 3 days at most.
Talk about salads, and the name lettuce is sure to spring up. Lettuce is an ancient plant cultivated in Egypt for thousands of years. They enjoyed these leaves in their diets as well as for medical use. With time, its cultivars spread to other global regions.
There are various varieties: butterhead, iceberg, summer crisp, romaine, loose leaf, and escarole. Some varieties have darker leaves, while others have lighter ones. Darker-leaved lettuce is believed to be more nutrient-dense.
Lettuce is highly touted for dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins.
Shelf life of lettuce
Compact, head lettuce, like an iceberg, has a longer shelf life than loose-leaved ones. Refrigerate the lettuce in the vegetable crisper. Use paper or tea towels, which absorb moisture and keep the leaves crispy and dry. Store in airtight containers. Well-refrigerated loose-leaved lettuce can stretch for 10 days, whereas head lettuce keeps well for up to 3 weeks.
Effective storage tips for leafy greens
- Dehydration is one of the best ways to preserve food items. You can choose to dehydrate leafy greens for long-term use. Take precaution, though, since dehydration can strip off vital nutrients in the leafy greens.
- When refrigerating, wrap the leaves in paper or a tea towel before arranging them in an airtight container. This prevents contact with condensation, which exacerbates spoilage.
The above 6 examples of everyday leafy greens and their shelf life should guide you in understanding the shelf life of other greens.
How to identify spoilage
- A slimy texture is an indication of spoilage.
- Discolored leaves. This is irreversible; hence you should discard such leaves or use them as compost manure.
You have come across tens of leafy greens. The listed 6 everyday leafy greens and their shelf life are a drop in the ocean!
Heya, I’m Norah! The foodie editor here at YummyTasteFood! I love absolutely everything to do with food, baking, and eating! I earned my stripes in the hospitality industry as a pastry chef, sous chef, and barista. I’m now a freelance writing nomad. I do not miss the hospitality industry! Be sure to join our Facebook group – it’s free to access!