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 kales don’t form a head.
Kales are mostly 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, C, phytonutrients, antioxidants, calcium, iron, magnesium as well as sodium.
In fact, a single serving of kale provides you with more than the daily recommended amounts of vitamins. Additionally, the green leaves are loaded with lutein, which promotes healthy eyesight by preventing macular degeneration. Moreover, it is low in calories.
Ironically, most people are put off by the somewhat bitter taste, despite the choke-full of nutrients. 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 on 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 a 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, A (due to carotenoids), folic acid, minerals such as iron, potassium, calcium, 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 to prevent spoilage. In case of soiled ones, wipe off the dirt with 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, as steamed, in 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 as well as 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 points its original cultivation to be in Sicily. Swiss chard is usually cooked, since it gives off a bitter taste 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 with the leaves.
Chard are 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 United States, although it is considered a native of Asia.
This crunchy leafy green is enjoyed in myriads of ways, either fresh or cooked – in salads, sandwich fillings, in 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 as well as 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, with cultivation being done 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, the common ones being butter head, iceberg, summer crisp, romaine, loose leaf and escarole. Some varieties have darker leaves while others lighter ones. Darker leaved lettuce are believed to be more nutrient-dense.
Lettuce are highly touted for dietary fiber, minerals and vitamins.
Shelf life of lettuce
Compact, head lettuce like iceberg have a longer shelf life compared to loose-leaved ones. Refrigerate the lettuce in the vegetable crisper. Use paper or tea towels which absorb moisture and keep the leaves crispy dry. Store in airtight containers. Well refrigerated loose-leaved lettuce can stretch for 10 days, whereas head lettuce keep 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 tea towel before arranging them on 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
- Slimy texture is an indication of spoilage.
- Discolored leaves. This is irreversible hence you should discard such leaves or use 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!