Why Does Lettuce Turn Brown?

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Have you ever wondered why lettuce turns brown? In this article, we explain why. Additionally, we also give you some information on whether brown lettuce is safe to eat or not, as well as some tips on how to store lettuce properly to last long.

Why Does Lettuce Turn Brown?

Lettuce turns brown commonly because of a chemical process that also happens to other fruits and vegetables such as apples, avocado, green olive, and the like.

The browning takes place when there is a reaction between polyphenols, which are chemicals found in lettuce, and the enzymes polyphenol oxidases, according to this article published by the McGill University’s Office for Science and Society,

Although these two are separated within the cell, damaging the cells by means or tearing or cutting the lettuce would result in leaking out the two chemicals, causing them to mix and react which is when it then turns brown. 

Another reason why lettuce turns brown is if it has been stored around other fruits like apples, peaches, and tomatoes. These fruits release considerable amounts of gas called ethylene. This gas “ripens” the lettuce fast, hence the browning. 

Lastly, exposure to cold temperatures may also cause the lettuce to turn brown.

Is It Safe to Eat Brown Lettuce?

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Yes, brown lettuce is safe to eat, the health website Berkeley Wellness says. Although the appearance is not that appealing, its brown color does not affect its safety as food. Moreover, just because it has turned brown does not mean its nutritional content has diminished.

So you can confidently add that brown lettuce to your salad without worrying about a thing.

How Do you Keep Lettuce From Turning Brown?

There are many ways to keep lettuce from turning brown. One way is to make sure that it is dry and stored in the part of the refrigerator that’s farthest from fruits that emit ethylene (examples above.) 

Another way to avoid browning is by keeping it cleaned and chopped the proper way. Doing this can make the lettuce last in your refrigerator for at least a week, says this article from Six Clever Sisters.

This process includes choosing fresh and firm lettuce, washing and drying it, storing it in a Ziploc bag, and sealing it shut. You may check out the article for more detailed steps. 

How Do You Keep Lettuce Fresh & Crisp

Similar to keeping to lettuce from turning brown, keeping it fresh, crisp, and not soggy, also involves properly storing it. According to the blog Taste of Home, you can do this by removing any part that is about to go bad.

For head lettuce such as romaine, it is recommended that they stay uncut and unwashed. As already explained earlier, store it separate from fruits. If stored in containers such as Ziploc bags, lining the bag with paper towels is recommended. This is to absorb moisture which expedites rotting.

Wrap Up

In conclusion, you don’t have to worry about lettuce turning brown. Although it may be visually unappealing, it is not unsafe now contains less nutritional content. But by storing your lettuce properly, following the tips above, your lettuce can last long without turning brown.

The YouTube video below is a helpful reference that gives tips on how to keep lettuce fresh for three weeks!