In a perfect world, we would have a bed of salad greens growing fresh throughout the winter, protected from the elements by cold frame or greenhouse. Without even a good local grower, the sad reality is that I buy my winter salad greens in a tight plastic box, just like everyone else. But how many times have I (or have you?) bought a box of precious baby arugula or spinach or lettuce with every intention of composing a virtuous salad and then gotten sidetracked...only to crack the plastic a few days later and find a bunch of rotting green slime?
Plastic boxes might be smart for transporting fresh greens, but they're a terrible way to store them. So I've learned to expend a little effort on the front end to ensure a bit of longevity. For starters, I check before purchasing to make sure the greens are recent; if there are already suspect bits showing, there's not much hope for prolonging freshness. Most of the local groceries seem to take delivery on Tuesdays and Fridays, so I try and target my purchases accordingly.
As soon as I get home, I remove the greens from the box and plunge them in a quick cold water bath in my salad spinner – just a few minutes to rinse and refresh them. After giving them a good drying spin, I stuff them loosely into a big plastic bag with a few paper towels, then seal the bag – leaving as much air as possible inside. Stored in the vegetable drawer of the fridge, they'll now rest clean and fresh for at least a week.
The seed catalogs are coming fast and furious now, and I keep reminding myself that planting time may be as close as 10 or 12 weeks away. Walking back up from the mailbox yesterday, I got a distinct sense that we're on the downward slope of winter; there was an unseasonal softness to the light and the air.