How To Tell If Lettuce Is Bad? Avoid Yucky Lettuce!

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Lettuce can be a tricky vegetable to keep fresh for a while. One day it looks totally fine, then the next you’ll find the whole thing has gone to mush! Well, fear not. Follow this easy guide on how to tell if your lettuce is okay to eat, and how to keep your lettuce fresher for longer. I will run through the best way to identify if your lettuce is gone bad, if it is still safe to eat, and the best ways to store different types of lettuce.

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How To Tell If Lettuce Is Bad? Avoid Yucky Lettuce

Table of Contents

How To Tell If Lettuce Has Gone Bad?

There are a few different ways to tell if lettuce has gone bad. I have run through all of the different ways in which you can tell if your lettuce has gone bad. So, look for the following signs to know whether your lettuce is safe to eat or not, which I have listed below.

Look for Brown or Black Leaves

When you begin to see some of the leaves on your head of lettuce discoloring, it is quite easy to see. Mostly leaves of lettuce are light green or yellow, unless you have some red coral lettuce, which has purple leaves.

If you notice dark patches on the leaves, then you know that your lettuce is on the way out. Discolored lettuce will also have a slimy texture (you might know this from slimy carrots) which usually has a foul odor.

Ingesting small brown spots is usually not dangerous. If the rest of the leaf looks healthy, then you can just cut around the spots and eat the rest.

There is a Robust or Rancid Smell From the Lettuce

You can tell a fresh head or bag of lettuce from the fresh, earthy odor it carries. Once lettuce starts to turn bad, you will notice a pungent smell begin to form, which is easily recognized and the decaying smell of produce is always unpleasant.

If its very repulsive, then you probably shouldn’t eat the lettuce. You’ll notice that this will also have a slimy texture which would make the lettuce unpalatable anyway.

Look for Signs that the Lettuce is Wilting

When fresh, lettuce is firm and crispy. As it begins to disintegrate, it will start to become mushy, causing it to droop and wrinkle as it ages.

You will be able to identify these characteristics just by looking at it or even touching it and feeling the strength of its texture. Lettuce that feels like it has a weak structure is on the verge of rotting. Lettuce will wilt just before it begins to rot.

If you find your lettuce has slightly wilted, you can easily revive the lettuce by putting the cut end into cold water for 30 minutes.

Touch The Leaves

If you can’t see any visible signs of decay, then you should check the texture. You will be able to see and feel any signs of moisture on the leaves.

As the leaves begin to decay, a sticky or slippery material starts to accumulate on them. This softness signifies the leaf is beginning to rot.
Even if damp leaves are OK to eat, they will not taste very nice.

As the leaves wilt, they grow softer. You again can try to revive them by putting in cold water for 30 minutes.

Get Rid Of Any Bags of Lettuce Which Look Swollen Or Moist

Even though you can’t smell or touch lettuce which is in a sealed bag, there are some specific symptoms of deterioration may still be visible. As moisture escapes from the leaves, the bag will puff up. This is a sign of rotting. On the inside of the bag, you may notice some water beads.

Germs and mold thrive in moist environments. Therefore you should not consume the lettuce if you see signs of mold.

Brown patches in a rotting bag of lettuce may be visible. You can also attempt to open the bag. If the lettuce has gone bad, it will emit a foul, putrid odor.

Taste The Lettuce Lettuce to See If It Is Sour

Snack on a piece of lettuce that appears to be safe to consume as a test.

Fresh lettuce has an unremarkable, watery flavor that most people are familiar with. Spoiled lettuce tastes and smells like rotting lettuce, and it will taste quite harsh, rotten, and sour. You will probably want to spit it out.

If the lettuce is sour, don’t eat it, and it should be thrown away right away.

fresh lettuce at the market

Tips On How To Keep Lettuce Fresher For Longer

Lettuce as we all know is a very delicate vegetable. If you don’t store it in the correct manner, it will wilt quickly and rot.

There are a few different tips I recommend using in order to prevent this from happening, keeping your lettuce fresher for longer!

Keep Refrigerated

The most basic rule of keeping lettuce fresh is always storing it in your refrigerator. No matter what type of lettuce you have, whether it is iceberg, romaine, leaf, or butterhead lettuce, they all belong in the fridge.

Even better, you should store it in the fruits and veg drawer as this will keep it more fresh

Keep away from Ethylene-emitting Produce

Fruit and vegetables such as apples, bananas, pears, avocados, and tomatoes all produce ethylene, which is an organic substance that causes fruit to ripen more quickly. This will have the same effect on your lettuce and cause it to ripen more quickly, and it will wilt more quickly.

Remove excess moisture

Before putting your lettuce into the fridge, make sure there is no excess moisture on it anywhere. When lettuce is wet, this causes the lettuce to spoil more quickly.

Throw away rotten leaves

If you notice one or two leaves starting to spoil, get rid of these ones. They will contaminate the other leaves and cause the other leaves to spoil more quickly.

Store the Lettuce in A Dry Spot In The Refrigerator

Keep the area sufficiently ventilated so that the lettuce doesn’t get too wet. The best place to store vegetables is in a crisper drawer.

If your refrigerator doesn’t have a crisper drawer, place the lettuce near the front of the shelf, away from ethylene-producing fruits such as bananas and tomatoes.

You’ve probably stored salad in the fridge and thought it lasted longer than you thought. Lettuce leaves can remain for up to 5 days in the refrigerator, but they can last even longer if stored properly.

When storing lettuce in the back of the refrigerator, be cautious. Not only does this make it easier to forget about the lettuce, but the cold from the freezer can also harm it. This area of the refrigerator is usually much more moist too.

You can also put the lettuce container in the freezer. Because lettuce has a lot of water, it will not stay crisp, but it can still be used in cooking.

Lettuce drying

How to Store Different Types of Lettuce

Depending on what type of lettuce you have, there is a particular way that is better for both head lettuce and loose-leaf lettuce.

Head Lettuce

Head lettuce actually lasts a bit longer than loose-leaf.

The best way to store head lettuce is not to cut it before you need to use it. You should wrap your lettuce head in a paper towel as this will help it to absorb any excess moisture.

Loose-leaf Lettuce

The best way to store loose-leaf lettuce is by storing it in a sealed container.

You can line up some paper towels along the interior of the box, then place your leaves within the box. you can line more paper towels on top too, which will help to wick away excess moisture from the leaves.

It might be worth replacing the paper towels every once in a while if they become damp or wet. If any leaves begin to become wilted, remove them as you need.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What Happens If You Eat Bad Lettuce?

If you were to eat contaminated leafy greens without cooking them first, such as in a salad or on a sandwich, you might get sick. It is estimated that germs found on raw produce such as lettuce leaves make up a large percentage of US foodborne illnesses. Leafy greens and other vegetable row crops are a major source of E. coli infections.

Can Bitter Lettuce Make You Sick?

While bitter lettuce doesn’t taste great, and can taint a tasty sandwich or salad. That being said, it is still safe to consume and is okay to eat bitter lettuce.

Why Does My Lettuce Taste Weird?

Spoiled lettuce tastes very similar to the way that rotten lettuce will smell. This is because your smell and tastebuds are linked. Spoiled lettuce has a very strong, rancid, sour taste that will make you want to spit it out. Avoid eating the lettuce if it is sour. You should just throw it away immediately.

Is It Okay To Eat Lettuce That Is A Little Bit Brown?

While the brown spot son lettuce might look cosmetically unappealing, there is actually nothing unsafe about them. These spots often form due to storage problems such as being stored at a high temperature.

Can I Eat Old Lettuce – Answered!

The appearance of lettuce is probably the best way to tell if it has gone bad. If you can visibly see brown spots, then the lettuce is already spoiled and you should throw it out straight away. Smell is another important way you can check your lettuce to see if it has gone bad.

Soft, wilting, drooping leaves can sometimes be revived if you put it in cold water with the cut side submerged for 30 minutes.

I hope this post will help you avoid any situations in the future so that you are sure of what is okay to eat and what is not. There is nothing worse than having some bad lettuce ruin your sandwich or salad!

If you think I have left anything out, or have any questions, let me know in the comments section below!

By Anna

Anna Brooks, the voice behind, is a seasoned writer and editor with an insatiable love for food. While not a professional chef, her culinary adventures and unique insights have captivated readers for years. Anna believes in the transformative power of food, stating it "feeds the soul." Dive into her writings for a mix of inspiration, entertainment, and culinary wisdom. Author Pinterest Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Tumblr Reddit Quora

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