Confession: I was an adolescent food snob. When my single mom, after a long day of work, would break out the frozen vegetables to toss in to one of her famously original casseroles (“Beef Vegetable Melee” still comes to mind)–I would mock shudder: Frozen vegetables? We lived in Southern California, land of produce plenty–and although she used fresh vegetables often enough, how could she be so lazy as to ever resort to frozen vegetables?
Ah, the idealism of a precocious kid. Fast forward a few decades and look at me now: A single mom, so deeply, thoroughly tempted to indulge in packaged pre-washed, pre-cut greens after a long day of work. Bagged greens are fresh at least, but I live in a city with ample and easy access to fresh local greens that don’t require plastic packaging or transportation across the country. Add to that the fact that packaged produce in the supermarket can be more than two weeks old–and in my book, the fresher the better. Even so, boy it can be tempting at the end of a long day. Yet at this point I know if I go down that road I will be repaid with the age-old maternal karma that is bestowed to all daughters that have daughters: “Bagged greens, Mom? That’s so not green.”
However. For people who live in areas without farmers markets, CSAs, and access to produce other than the supermarket–bagged greens may be the only choice for organic produce. If that’s your case, it’s so great that you have the option. And some people may simply not have the time, whatsoever, to handle fresh greens straight from the farm. So for those of you: Yay for organic bagged greens!
The important thing to know about using bagged greens is that they are more processed and carry a higher risk of contamination of E. coli and other bacteria. Cooking is the only way to completely kill bacteria in greens, but the November issue of Gourmet magazine has these tips for safe greens:
• Buy whole heads or bunches of intact plants (like romaine hearts); pre-cut edges provide a particularly easy point of entry for bacteria.
• Washing won’t get all the bugs out of contaminated greens, but it can remove surface bacteria.
• If you buy pre-washed, factory-bagged produce, look at the “use before” date. If it’s getting close, avoid the product. The longer it has been in the bag, the more opportunities for the pathogens to grow.
• Never, ever eat uncooked greens from bags whose expiration date has passed, no matter how fresh they appear.
For more about why you should make like Popeye and eat your greens, read Go Gorgeous Greens, which also has my go-to super yummy quick sauteed greens method.