Don't throw away the lettuce in your crisper just because you overbought for the week. Dehydrate lettuce and put it to good use in extending your green powder by dehydrating it! Simple, easy and quite yummy!
Now, a word of warning ... if the lettuce is the same lettuce that now has a brown puddle underneath it in the plastic bin you've been storing it in for two weeks...throw that stuff out 😀 You want good, crisp lettuce. Once it's gotten to the wilted stage, it really is better for composting.
But when you buy those big containers of spring mix or spinach or romaine, but can't get it all eaten before it becomes the wilted stuff you keep pushing to the back of the fridge, you can toss it on your dehydrator! Dehydrating lettuce can be one of the easiest things you can do (unless, of course, you're like me ... and it all goes wrong - more on that later).
Before we start - you'll ask -
What Kind of Dehydrator Do I Need?
I use an Excalibur Dehydrator. It's a 9 tray machine that allows me to do a lot of drying at once. It's been a great investment for our Purposeful Pantry.
However, you can also use any machine that has a temperature gauge that shows actual temperatures - not just low and high or on and off.
If your budget and/or space is smaller, you might try the Nesco FD-80 or the American Harvest Snackmaster, just to name a few. Here are some other budget-friendly dehydrator tools you might find helpful.
HOW TO DEHYDRATE LETTUCE
QUICK REFERENCE: Dehydrate at 95-115F / 35-46C for 4-6 hours until lettuce crumbles in your hand.
►Always preheat your dehydrator when you begin to prep your produce, and dehydrate at the appropriate temperatures. Running at 160F doesn’t make things dehydrate faster, it just promotes case hardening, which you don’t want! Have you ever tested the temperature on your dehydrator?
1. Wash your lettuce.
I suggest a good soak in water. If you're going to use vinegar, it needs to be a hhefty2:1 mix of vinegar to water, or you really aren't doing much good.
2. Pick out any wilted leaves
3. Place it on your trays
Lettuce will shrink up a ton, so don't play puzzle palace and place each leaf individually. They can touch a little, but you want natural airflow.
4. Dry for 3-6 hours on 95-115F / 35-46C
I like to make sure my greens are dried, not cooked, and keep all of the nutrition in they can, so I tend to dry on the low-end. If you live in a high-humidity area, you can bump up the temperature to 125F to make sure you're drying thoroughly.
5. Grind it in your blender or coffee grinder
Because lettuce really isn't good on its own as chips for snacks the way kale and spinach might be, the best use for it is ground into a powder to add to your green powder collection, or to keep on its own to add to meals.
6. Allow it to rest.
And by rest I mean let it sit in an airtight container for a few days to test for moisture issues, shaking once a day to mix things up. This is called conditioning. It allows the moisture to redistribute equally with everything in the jar - especially for fruits and some vegetables. Then, if you see condensation building up or your humidity labels show higher moisture - you can throw them back into the dehydrator more.
7. Store in an air-tight container.
I prefer to vacuum seal mine with my vacuum sealer in a larger quantity and keep a working quantity in a smaller jar to grab quickly.
Before we go any farther, let's talk about those purple leaves in your spring mix.
How to Dehydrate Spring Mix
You have two choices. Toss them - dehydrate them.
Many spring mix packages come with a variety of lettuces, that change with the season and what is being harvested at the particular hothouse.
In our family, we know the deeper the color, the more nutritious a lettuce is, but none of us too fond of the purple varieties because they seem to lose any crunch factor. Thus, they can be problematic in dehydrating - or more specifically, in the powdering at the end of the process.
Case in point - I'll share the video I created when filming this process and how I ran into a big issue on my very last batch of lettuce powder. It just didn't dehydrate fully for a variety of reasons:
- I piled the lettuce too high trying to show that you don't have to lay it out in single leaves
- The lettuce was a little past it's 'best by' date (lettuce turns quickly)
- The lettuce just wasn't fully dehydrated throughout all the trays
The purples seemed to be the ones causing the most trouble.
Thus, if you want a carefree process, do like I did on my last batch and just get rid of 'em 🙂 I throw them out for the bunnies or into the compost.
However, if you want to use them, and you're confident in your desire to have them in your greens, go for it! Just make sure they're truly dehydrated before adding them into the rest of your green powder batch. I use these humidity indicator strips (I get mine here through Amazon) to test the humidity level of my dehydrated products before putting them into longer-term storage or adding them to other batches of similar ingredients.
And if you find they need a little more drying time, stick them back in! Even the powder can be dried more if you sandwich it between parchment paper to keep it from flying.
OTHER DEHYDRATING POSTS YOU MIGHT FIND HELPFUL:
Pro Tip: if you're a real klutz like me...you might consider switching to from glass to BPA-free plastics to store. Or...rubber. Rubber might be good.