Many things in life get soggy when wet, like paper, or expensively blow-dried hair. But plants do not work this way. Water makes them plumper, crispier, crunchier. Understand this fact and you’ll never suffer soggy lettuce again.
It’s simple physics: plants are made of microscopic cells, and each one has a semi-solid wall around it. Fill those cells with water, and the cells plump up like overfilled water balloons. It’s only when they dry out that they wilt.
Don’t believe me? Take a limp, neglected potted plant, and give it some water. It will perk up, like so:
The same thing happens with the vegetables in your fridge. Have you noticed that the crisper, the part of the refrigerator where vegetables stay crisp longer, has walls so its contents don’t dry out as quickly? Or that if you keep your asparagus in a glass of water, it stays fresh until either you eat it or it dies a natural death? Or that bagged baby lettuce doesn’t wilt, but the same leaves left on a counter turn into sheets of thin mush within hours?
Don’t just take it from me—ask this redditor, who wrote that “Today I went to eat my carrot and found it was bendy,” but found that the carrot un-bended after a few hours in a glass of water. Or this one, who reports soaking truckloads of sad lettuce back to crispness.
You don’t believe me, but it’s true
And yet, despite these truths that you can read in biology textbooks and that you can see with your own eyes, many of you will not believe me.
“My grandmother dries off each lettuce leaf with a paper towel…” you may say. (I’m sorry to report we have said something similar in the past.) Well, next time she does that, put a few leaves in a baggie, maybe with a wet paper towel, and you’ll see that yours last longer than hers.
“I tried it once on some black, soupy, rotten lettuce and it didn’t work.” Well yeah, it’s water, not a time machine. If the vegetable is already rotten, your crispiness ship has sailed.
“But salad dressing makes lettuce wilt!” Yes, but not because it’s a liquid. Dressings usually contain salt or sugar, which draw water out of plant cells. If you don’t believe me, put some fresh strawberries in a bowl with a heap of sugar. You will find that, the next morning, the strawberries have shriveled and their juices are now mixed with the sugar, making a delicious syrup for your waffles. Sugar or salt will do the same thing to lettuce, but salty soupy lettuce is not good on waffles.
“This only works if you also…” No. You don’t need ice and lemon, or any special incantations or temperature manipulation. Just water. Water works. Thank physics.