“Do you see anything wrong with my salad?”

Since we started eating healthier and lighter, we’ve also been considering where our vegetables and fruits originate. In addition to preferring meats that are pasture-raised with no antibiotics and eggs that are from free-range chickens, we’ve started incorporating organic veggies and fruits into our diet. Thus far we have liked the change; however, we are having issues with lettuce.

The first issue is that our local farmers’ market doesn’t have any vendors who offer lettuce, so we must purchase it as the store. And the options at the store aren’t great. They are overwatered and already wilted and slimy when I pick them off the shelf. It’s not ideal by any means, but it’s all we have at the moment.

I’ve struggled to keep our lettuce fresh, whether organic or not. We prefer Romaine lettuce, which I know doesn’t keep as long as other types such as iceberg lettuce, but we can’t stand iceberg lettuce. It’s like eating crunchy water. So we’ve tried to find a method to keep organic Romaine lettuce so that it lasts the longest.

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I should also add that my partner despised salads until we met. I have always loved salads; even as a child I was excited when restaurants had Caesar salads so I could indulge in tasty, fancy food. But my partner avoided salads at all costs until we moved in together. Thanks to my fabulous salad making skills, I got her on board with adding the occasional side salad until she began suggesting salads on a regular basis. Nowadays we eat them several times a week.

After switching to organic, I thought we were on the right track. Until two weeks ago.

After finishing lunch, my partner texted me a video with a single question: “Do you see anything wrong with my salad?” I immediately knew it wasn’t going to be a good thing if she had sent a video, and, boy, was I right! There, in the middle of the screen, squirming slowly across a single leaf is cheese-topped and dressing-drizzled lettuce, was a single, tiny worm. On her salad. Smiling at the camera.

I immediately went to Google. How had this happened? I washed the lettuce by hand as soon as we got it home! I hand-dried every single piece that went into the salads. An Internet search turned up little outside of advice that it was good to get used to eating worms if you went for organic lettuce: after all, you are paying for no pesticides on the crops. Meanwhile, my partner’s boss informed her that we should wash organic lettuce at least three times before eating it to ensure we remove anything that might have hitched a ride on the way to the store. I knew there had to be a better answer than going back to pesticide-treated veggies or religiously washing our lettuce like salad zealots. Turns out I was wrong again.

At the store yesterday, I perused the organic lettuce options and was so disappointed. The leaves were all wilted and already browning. The base of the heads looked old and discolored. I was about to announce that we were going to substitute lettuce with another vegetable for future salads when I noticed the only bright green leaves on the whole shelf. It was called “Living Lettuce” and still had the roots attached to the head. After getting it home, I discovered that it was strangely paper-thin–it literally tore if the water pressure was too strong–but it wasn’t wilted or brown. The more I look at it, though, the more oddly bright it seems to be. So I have some research to do to ensure we know what we are actually eating. Either way, I gave it a good washing, leaf by leaf, and then laid them out to dry on the counter. After looking over the leaves before tearing them to fill the bowls for salads, I made a joke that I hoped this salad was better than the last once since I hadn’t washed them three times.

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That’s when we saw it. As if on cue, the small shape of a tiny black and white speck came into focus on one of the torn leaves. Another worm, smaller but the same type, was on the lettuce again. I gave up. I had picked the best looking lettuce in the store, gone with my heart in wanting organic produce, and thoroughly washed it. And a bastard got through anyway. After getting over the ick factor, we debated how grossed out we were. Apparently not enough to lose our side salads and toss out the lettuce altogether. Instead, we emptied out the bowls and looked over each and every piece of lettuce before putting them back in the bowl to eat. And then ate our salads with lots of dressing.

I’m still unsure what the best solution is for our situation. I don’t want to back to pesticide-treated lettuce, and I’m not 100% sure that this issue is with organic produce only anyway. Once we get past the worms and washing  them well, I’m still trying to figure out the best way to keep them fresh. Right now I’m trying a sealed container with napkins to absorb the extra water. Who knows, maybe the worms will help keep them dry.

Do you have any advice on how to best clean and store lettuce?

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