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Be concerned about freshness and
thorough washing

Lettuces and other salad leaves don't keep well and so they should be used as fresh as possible. You'll retain a maximum of vitamins and minerals if you prepare the salad leaves only shortly before eating. You'll need to remove the tough outer leaves, the stalk, any coarse sections of stalk and any brown spots. The wash the salad leaves in a large bowl with a lot of water. Wash them briefly and carefully, but thoroughly. Lamb's lettuce and rucola have small leaves and they'll need a lot more careful work to get them clean. Even iceberg lettuce needs washing, despite the tight-fitting outer leaves, to make sure that you're not eating grains of sand or insects.

Preparing and dressing salads

After washing, you need to get the salad dry so that the dressing combines well with the salad leaves and the leaves themselves don't become soggy. One way of drying washed leaves is to put them in a sieve and shake gently. Or you can use one of the practical salad spinners. Make sure not to fill the spinner too full, otherwise the tender leaves might be unnecessarily damaged.

Different types of lettuce are prepared differently – butter lettuce is pulled carefully into bite-sized pieces, while iceberg lettuce is generally shredded.

Make your salad in a large bowl with ample space for mixing. If your main ingredient is butter lettuce or lamb's lettuce, add the dressing only just before serving. Tougher kinds of lettuce, like iceberg, endive or chicorie can be tossed in the dressing sometime before serving and left in a cool place to absorb the flavours. Add grated ingredients, like apple and raw celery, to the dressing as soon as they're grated; this will stop them turning brown.

Correct storage is important

Try to buy only top quality salad leaves. The leaves should be undamaged and look fresh and crisp. Fresh lettuce will keep several days in your fridge, but it must be protected against drying out – by wrapping it in a damp tea towel, in clingfilm or in a plastic container. Lettuces can also be stored in the original plastic packaging. Don't store salad greens close to fruits like apples, tomatoes or pears. These exude the ripening hormone, ethylene, and cause the salad leaves to wilt more quickly. 

Source: Heike Kreutz, www.aid.de