Reviving Wilted Vegetables, Greens & Herbs

While visiting the farmer’s market earlier this week I made “key buy” on a bunch of beets that were looking a bit limp and tired.  It was the last hour of the market and this was the vendor’s last bunch of beets. 

The regular price was $4.50 but he said he’d give me the bunch for $3.00.  You might say it was a deal that was “hard to beat (beet)!”. 

Wilted Beet Greens

Wilted greens before reviving in cold water.

 At $3.00 for a nice big bunch they’re going to provide two different hearty dishes…I plan to make a beet salad with the roots and the greens themselves can be turned into yet another dish.  The fact that they were wilted and looking like they were ready to throw in the towel wasn’t an issue.  I knew I could plump them right up when I got home and they wouldn’t be the worse for wear! 

Wilting in vegetables is due to the loss of “turgor pressure”  As the cell walls lose moisture they begin to collapse inward causing the leaves and other tender portions to wilt and collapse.  Turgidity can be returned fairly easily. Most wilted vegetables whether they be lettuce, greens, herbs, or sturdier vegetables like celery and carrots can often be revived with very little trouble by following these tips:

1. Trim Anything that Doesn’t Need Reviving:

Trimmed beets and greens. In the case of the beets, I trimmed the root portion and set it aside for washing separately.  Any leaves that weren’t in good condition and worth reviving were set aside with the stems to be discarded or composted.  The trimmed leaves were put in a clean sink filled with tepid water to wash off any dirt and grit.  Slightly tepid water will help to soften dirt and grit better than cold water.  When remove the vegetables from washing water, be sure to lift out of the water rather than simply draining the sink or pouring water from the bowl.  Lifting vegetables out of the water will leave the dirt behind.  Draining or pouring water off will allow dirt to cling to vegetables as the water recedes.  If vegetables have already been washed then skip to step #2.

2. Place the Cleaned Vegetables in a Sink or Bowl of Ice Water:

Soak the greens/herbs/vegetables for 15-30 minutes in cold water.   The colder the vegetables, the stronger the “cement” that holds the cell walls together.  Thus the reason that refrigerated vegetables seem sturdier than the same type left at room temperature.

Greens in ice water.

Greens being revived in ice water.

During colder weather the water coming out of the faucet may be cold enough on its own.  Otherwise add ice cubes to chill the water.  Make sure the greens/herbs/vegetables are evenly submerged so they can soak up the maximum water.

3.  Drain and Dry

For small quantities, remove them from water and spin dry or pat dry with towels.  With the sink full of beet greens I simply drained the sink and allowed water to recede (they had previously been washed so the dirt and grit was already removed). 

Plumped and Drained Beet Greens

Draining Revived Greens.

 I then let them sit in the drained sink for about another 20 minutes to let the excess water drip off.

4. Refrigerate or Use

Store in a plastic bag with dry towels to absorb excess moisture to keep it from causing vegetables/greens to spoil quicker.  Alternatively “Salad Sacs”, a terry-cloth bag with a draw-string will help to extend the refrigerated shelf-life of greens and vegetables.  

Salad Sac

Storing greens & herbs in the "Salad Sac".

 Wash the vegetables and place in the bag WITHOUT patting dry or spinning.  The small amount of water that clings to the vegetables will help maintain turgor pressure during storage but the absorbent and porous nature of the terry cloth will allow them to breathe so they moisture doesn’t speed up decomposition.

So…the next time your carrots look like they need a dose of Viagra, just have them take the “polar bear plunge” in a bowl or sink of ice water.