Here's How To Make Sure Your Butter Lettuce Stays Fresh For Longer

whole butter lettuce head on wooden cutting board
whole butter lettuce head on wooden cutting board - Bhofack2/Getty Images

While having a package of mixed lettuce greens is perfect for a quick salad, sometimes you need the big intact leaves from a whole head of lettuce. In this case, butter lettuce, also known as Boston and Bibb lettuce, is perfect. It's mild, tender, and pliable, ideal for lettuce wraps, all types of sandwiches, and easy summer salads. Another bonus is that a head of butter lettuce can stay fresh for much longer than packaged greens if you handle it properly.

One of the most important things you can do is keep the lettuce whole in the fridge and not trim off the root end. Keeping the root intact, even if you need to pluck off some leaves along the way, will essentially continue to feed the lettuce nutrients, making it last longer. A whole, uncut head of lettuce can last up to three weeks in the refrigerator, though mishandling will shorten its lifespan.

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Other Ways To Make Butter Lettuce Last

close-up whole head butter lettuce
close-up whole head butter lettuce - Visual Motiv/Shutterstock

To stack the deck in your favor when it comes to butter lettuce, buy a healthy head of lettuce and store it correctly when you get home. At the store, be sure to look for tightly-packed bright green leaves that aren't bruised or wilted. Other signs of spoilage are brownish discoloration of the leaves, slimy texture, and off odor.

You can also buy what's called "living" butter lettuce, which is hydroponically grown and sold with the root system attached. These come in plastic containers, so be sure to check the best-by date. Keep this type of butter lettuce in its clamshell packaging and add a little water to the container to feed the roots.

Unpackaged heads of butter lettuce should be stored unwashed and uncut in a plastic bag or plastic container. If using a bag, be sure to leave it open a little to allow for air circulation. You can also exhale a puff of air into the bag to up the carbon dioxide level which will help slow down oxidation. Be sure to twist and close the bag in this case. Store fresh lettuce away from ethylene gas-emitting fruits like melons, apples, peaches, and pears. Also, if using a plastic bag, be sure the lettuce is not crushed against anything else which will lead to bruising. Finally, don't push the lettuce to the back of the fridge where it can be prone to freezing.

The Best Ways To Use Butter Lettuce

chicken lettuce wraps with carrots on plate
chicken lettuce wraps with carrots on plate - Freeskyline/Getty Images

While butter lettuce is delicate, it's quite versatile and can be used in a variety of recipes. If you're not using the whole head, carefully snap off the number of leaves that you need and return the rest of the head to the fridge. Make sure to carefully wash the leaves under running cold water and dry them gently with a clean towel. A salad spinner can be used, but you should spin slowly and then pat the leaves dry or let them air dry.

The most natural way to use butter lettuce is to chop it and toss it with fresh veggies in a classic French vinaigrette. Butter lettuce is also great for Asian steak lettuce wraps because its soft, pliable texture is easy to bite through. The size of its leaves also makes it the perfect low-carb taco shell. If you want to go vegetarian, tofu and mushroom lettuce wraps are a great use of tender butter lettuce. The super thin leaves are surprisingly strong and will hold meats, crisp veggies, and any sauces admirably. You can even cook thin ribbons of lettuce and add them to dishes, as in this fresh spring peas with butter lettuce and dill.

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