Keeping Greens Fresh

Cold-chain management is the key.

Greg Longstreet, VP of foodservice sales for Dole, says cold-chain management is the key factor in getting the freshest, tastiest greens to restaurant customers. The distributor is also essential. "The temperature of a salad product must be consistently controlled at the field, warehouse, refrigerated truck and restaurant kitchen," Longstreet says. "Otherwise it breaks down at different points and loses quality." He advises operators ask about a distributor's cold-chain management techniques and equipment. Most important is finding out the checkpoints they have in place for monitoring consistent temperature and arranging a delivery schedule that guarantees freshness.

Packaging technology has also advanced to the point where it's practically foolproof. Bags are made of a special plastic film that improves airflow and lowers the oxygen transmission rate. This controls the sweating and excess moisture buildup that speeds up wilting and leaf discoloration. With these modified atmosphere bags, most cut salad greens have a life span of 16 days from the shipping point to operator.

Proper packaging and handling of pre-cut salad greens is key to maintaining freshness and quality. "Bagged mixes are not more perishable if they're kept at an optimal temperature," says Robert Schueller of Melissa's World Variety Produce in Los Angeles. "In fact, they don't go through as many hands at the field and they're double cleaned before packing, eliminating further handling and possible deterioration in the restaurant kitchen."

Once the package is open, keep greens loosely packed, dry and chilled at 33 to 38°F.