Lettuce has long been one of the most popular vegetables because it’s so versatile and goes well with just about everything — including salad dressing, sandwiches, soups and dips, pasta dishes, and even desserts.
It’s also relatively inexpensive, making it an affordable way to get your daily dose of greens.
But while you can buy bags of packaged leafy green salads at many grocery stores, you should know that not all bagged lettuces are created equal.
Some may be perfectly good, but others could have issues such as mold, mildew, and spoilage.
You can tell if a bag of lettuce is spoiled by simply looking at it and smelling it.
You might notice signs of mold, slime, or rottenness.
Here’s how to identify whether a bag of lettuce is bad.
Is the lettuce wilted or brown?
First, take a look at the leaves.
Is the lettuce wilting or turning brown?
If so, then the lettuce probably isn’t very good.
The same thing happens when lettuce gets too hot — the leaves start to wilt.
If you see this happening, toss out the lettuce immediately.
The leaves should be firm and bright green, not limp or yellowed.
If you’re unsure, cut one leaf off and taste it; if it tastes bad, don’t use it.
Or, try another leaf from a different part of the bunch. If it still doesn’t taste good, throw it out.
Are there any visible mold spots?
Look for signs of mold on the outside of the lettuce.
Mold will appear as black dots or patches.
If you find these, do not eat the lettuce.
Throw it away right away.
Does the lettuce smell bad?
If the lettuce does not smell bad, but looks like it has mold on it, then it is probably okay to eat.
However, if the lettuce smells bad, throw it out.
There is no point in eating something that stinks!
Is the lettuce slimy?
When lettuce starts to go bad, it becomes slimy.
This is especially true if it is left in the refrigerator for more than a day.
A little bit of slime on the lettuce is fine, but if the lettuce is covered in slime, it is time to toss it out.
Slime is a sign of decay.
Has the lettuce been in the fridge for more than a week?
Leafy greens are best eaten within a few days of purchase.
After that, they become less crisp and flavorful.
So, if you buy a bag of lettuce and put it in the fridge, don’t expect it to taste great after a week.
In fact, you might want to consider tossing it out.
Was the lettuce washed before it was stored?
A lot of people wash their lettuce prior to storing it.
But washing it won’t make it last longer.
In fact, washing lettuce can actually lead to mold growth.
When lettuce is wet, mold spores can grow faster and cause more damage to the produce.
So, if you do wash your lettuce, do it only once and dry it thoroughly afterward.
Make sure to store it in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator, where it will stay drier.
Is the lettuce package swollen or damaged?
Sometimes, a bag of lettuce can seem pretty sturdy.
But sometimes, the plastic wrap around the lettuce can tear or break.
If this happens, the lettuce inside could spill onto the rest of the bag.
When this happens, the entire bag is ruined, and you need to toss it out.
Also, if the bag is bulging, it means that the lettuce inside is pushing against the sides of the bag, which can lead to spoilage.
Are there any bugs in the lettuce?
Lettuce is often sold in bunches, usually containing between six and 12 individual heads.
Sometimes, bugs can hide in the lettuce leaves.
These bugs aren’t harmful, but they can make some people sick.
If you see bugs crawling on the lettuce, throw it out.
Bugs can also show up in the form of small holes in the leaves.
These holes can be caused by insects or other pests.
Again, if you see these, toss them out.
Is the lettuce past its expiration date?
When you shop for lettuce, you’ll see a sticker or label that tells you when the lettuce was harvested and what variety it is.
This information is important, because lettuce can lose nutrients over time.
As it ages, lettuce will become less nutritious.
So, if you buy lettuce that has expired, it’s possible that it will not be as healthy for you as fresh lettuce would be.
Is the lettuce prewashed?
Some people think that prewashing lettuce will remove dirt and bacteria from the leaves.
While this is true, it also removes flavor.
So, if you want to save money, skip the prewash step.
Just rinse the lettuce under cold water before using it.
It can be easy to overlook the importance of buying high-quality lettuce.
But if you’ve ever had lettuce that tasted bad, you already know that it’s worth paying extra for quality.
Plus, you’ll never have to worry about getting sick from contaminated food again.