Ditch the Sand and Grit -- How to Wash Your Spring Veggies

It only takes a few pieces of grit or sand, crunching between your teeth, to ruin some of our favorite spring delicacies. With all of the rain we've been having, sand and grit have been invading our lettuces and other greens, asparagus, and of course, morels! Read on for a brief guide on how-to wash your spring veggies!

Lettuces and Greens:  To thoroughly wash the grit and sand out of your lettuces and other greens, you will need enough water for the leaves to float freely. Depending on how many leaves you’re washing, fill either a large bowl or your sink (disinfect it first!) with cool water. Separate the greens, place them in the bowl/sink, and swish them around to loosen the grit. Let them float undisturbed for a few minutes while the grit settles to the bottom. Lift the greens out of the water into a clean container, leaving the grit behind. Drain the sink or bowl and repeat with fresh water until no trace of grit remains. Don’t pour the greens from the bowl into a colander: you’ll just pour the grit back over the greens.

Water droplets clinging to cooking greens are fine and actually help steam the greens during cooking, but salad greens need to be dried thoroughly. (Wet greens won’t last as long if you’re not using them right away.) The only really effective way to dry them is in a spinner.  In a pinch, place your greens in a dish towel and roll the towel like a burrito around your greens.  Holding both ends of the towel in one hand, spin your arm in large helicopter motion.  Centrifugal force will send water flying so it is best to do this outdoors.  To store, pack the leaves loosely in a zip-top bag lined with paper towels, gently squeeze out most of the air, and seal.

Asparagus: Most folks will direct you to follow a similar method with asparagus - soak it in ample water, gently agitating occasionally until the sand falls to the bottom, lift the asparagus from the bowl/sink and gently dry between kitchen towels. While this method certainly works if you're only battling a little bit of grit - we have two better methods if you are facing a serious sand situation!

1. The Shave: Grab a vegetable peeler, and use it to slice off the little leaves that run along the spears -- a place where grit can so easily hide. After you've peeled the asparagus, run it under cold water. This method has the added benefit of removing the toughest layer of the vegetable, which is especially helpful among older spears. 

2. The Dip: Bring a pot of water to a boil and quickly blanch your asparagus by dunking the spears quickly into the pot and removing them. This wilts the little leaves that trap the sand and grit. Run your asparagus under cold water and then proceed to cook or prepare it as usual.  

Morels: While all of the nooks and crannies you find on morels are fabulous for trapping melted butter, they also harbor all sorts of dirt and grit. Remember, you don't want to clean your morels until you are ready to eat them! In the meantime, you can store them (dirt and all) in a brown paper bag in your refrigerator.  When you're ready to start to prepare this seasonal treat, here are the steps we follow:

1. Shake Off the Dirt -- in a gentle (not too vigorous) manner, shake your morels to dislodge dirt and grit that is stuck in the nooks and crannies. You can do this in their brown paper bag or in a colander. When you have finished giving them a gentle shake, lift the mushrooms out of the bag or colander. Just like the lettuce and asparagus, if you dump the morels out of the bag, you are just dumping the grit right back on them!

2. Give them a Soak -- Put the morels in a large bowl of cold water (or a clean sink full of cold water) and lovingly swish the morels around.  The swishing is to help loosen any remaining dirt in the mushrooms, so if you can see dirt coming off, keep going until you don't.

Lift the morels out of the water (again, leaving behind any dirt or grit on the bottom of the bowl or sink). If the water is particularly dirty, you may want to repeat the process, dumping out the dirty water and starting with a clean bowl of cool water. Continue the cleaning process until you don't see any more dirt releasing from the mushrooms.

3. Dry them Off -- Spread your morels on a kitchen towel and pat them dry. Now you're all ready to prepare them your favorite way!  (Ahem, lightly breaded and fried in butter)