Storing lettuce and retaining its freshness can be a really difficult task, as it has fragile leaves. Here are some guidelines for freezing lettuce leaves.
Heirloom lettuce varieties tolerate freezing better than their counterparts. Also, they have a great flavor.
Food items can be stored in different ways. Though storage of perishable items is difficult, it is not impossible with appliances like refrigerators. However, there are certain items that cannot be stored for long. While most of the perishable items are stored in the freezer, some of them fail to retain their flavor and texture, after freezing. Once frozen, most of the fruits and vegetables develop a watery texture and flavor, which may not taste good. When stored in the freezer, the water in plant cells crystallizes, thereby causing damage to the cell walls. Higher the water content, more is the damage caused during freezing. This is the reason why green leafy vegetables like lettuce are not preferred for freezing. However, if frozen properly, you can store lettuce for around six months.
Can You Freeze Lettuce?
It is not impossible to freeze lettuce, but the fragile leaves may not tolerate freezing. So, it is always advisable to consume them in the fresh form and avoid freezing. However, leftover lettuce can be stored in the freezer, if you don’t want to use it within a few days. If you buy lettuce in bulk, freezing is the best option to make it last longer. Those who grow lettuce may also freeze the leaves, so that they can be used later.
Method I – Freeze Fresh Lettuce
- Discard the stalk as well as the damaged and diseased leaves.
- Wash the leaves in cool water and place them in a colander, so as to drain the water. Use paper towels or a soft cloth to blot dry the leaves.
- Spread them on a kitchen towel. It is really important to minimize the moisture on the leaves.
- Once done, put the leaves in freezer bags, and store them in the freezer.
- Avoid stuffing the leaves in freezer bags. Press them gently to release excess air.
Throughout the process of cleaning and storing, you must handle the leaves gently. Before freezing the bags, you may use a straw to suck out the air inside them. This helps in retaining the freshness of the leaves. If there are other food items to be frozen, ensure that you keep the lettuce bags on the top. Otherwise, the leaves will get crushed. If you have more than one variety of lettuce, freeze them in separate bags.
In order to thaw the frozen leaves, take them out of the freezer and keep in the refrigerator overnight. Otherwise, keep them at room temperature for an hour or two. You can use frozen and thawed lettuce in soups, stir fries, casseroles, stews, etc. They can be used as wraps too.
Method II – Freeze Pureed Lettuce
- Discard the stalk and separate the leaves. Wash them well.
- Put the leaves in a blender and puree them along with a small amount of water.
- Pour the puree in icetrays. Once done, remove the cubes from the icetrays, and store them in freezer bags.
This is one of the easiest methods to preserve lettuce. Unlike frozen leaves, there is no change in texture. Usually, frozen lettuce leaves and frozen lettuce puree are not used in fresh salads. Frozen puree can be used in smoothies, soups, stews, curries, etc. You may also cook grains and vegetables in this puree.
Lettuce Types and Freezing
Freeze lettuce only if the leaves are fresh. While homegrown lettuce is best for freezing, those bought from local farmers are also good. Store-bought lettuce may not be that fresh. When it comes to the different varieties, romaine lettuce is much better than the iceberg type. Go for thick-leaved varieties rather than the thin-leaved ones. Even the red and green oak varieties are ideal for freezing.
Another method is to store the leaves in an air-tight container or zip-lock bag, along with some paper towels. Don’t stuff the container. Place it in the refrigerator. This way, the lettuce will stay fresh for more than ten days. If you wash the lettuce before storage, blot dry the leaves. In short, lettuce loses its crispiness and flavor, when frozen. But, if you have it in excess, try any of the methods mentioned above to freeze the leaves.