Iceberg lettuce is green. Why does some iceberg lettuce turn red? Is it safe to eat? While it certainly looks a bit weird, this color change is nothing to be concerned about. Just as some earth is a reddish-orange from higher iron content, the red on iceberg lettuce is also a result of iron oxidation. There are varieties of lettuce that turn red naturally, but this is not one of them. Instead, naturally occurring iron exposed to air (oxygen) rusts, which makes your lettuce a different hue. Fortunately, it isn’t enough to make a significant impact on your food. I have been growing iceberg lettuce year-round for a long time, and I’ve learned a lot about it over the years, so I’ll share what I know. Hopefully, with the right information, you won’t have to worry about your lettuce, plus you can amend your soil and cutting techniques to minimize the problem.
Why does iceberg lettuce turn red? Iceberg lettuce turns red due to oxidation of the iron in the lettuce. When the red is down near the root, it is perfectly safe to eat. Likewise, some cut lettuce turns red where you cut it due to oxidation. Switch to a plastic lettuce cutting knife to minimize this phenomenon. However, red spots on uncut edges mean the lettuce is not fresh.
Is It Safe To Eat Lettuce That Is Turning Pink
Whether your iceberg lettuce is turning red, or your lettuce looks a bit pink, it’s safe to eat. In the case of pink lettuce, the cut leafy ends or even the ribs can turn a pinkish color. So long as the rest of your lettuce is fresh, this is perfectly edible and safe.
Unlike the iron content in red lettuce, the pink color comes from aging. Moreover, this can also happen if the lettuce is stored at high temperatures. Since both age and high temps can speed up the process of wilting and decomposition, it’s best to either eat pink lettuce right away or throw it away.
The color won’t affect you. However, it is important to wash your lettuce thoroughly. It’s even better when you grow it yourself. Beyond the satisfaction and security of home gardening, you can also have more control over how your food is produced.
A little pink isn’t what you need to watch out for on lettuce. Sadly storebought and restaurant leafy greens are a significant source of salmonella, e.coli, listeria, and norovirus. Hence, growing your own can help prevent some of the truly worrisome things that can happen with mass-produced and store-bought lettuces.
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Is Red Romaine Lettuce Safe To Eat
When iceberg lettuce turns red, it’s a sign of iron. However, when romaine lettuce turns red, it is a sign of good breeding. Red romaine lettuce is a ‘fancy’ variety that is cultivated for its looks.
If plants had fancy breed shows like dogs, which they do, then romaine lettuce was someone’s posh and pampered baby. This color, like patterns on purebred animals, is not only intentional but desirable. You’ll appreciate the sweet crunch of red romaine leaves in your salads.
Lettuces get a bad rap as bland and lacking in flavor. While it’s true that good lettuce usually has a subtle taste, it is definitely present. When you start growing your own food, you will notice a marked difference.
The best flavors don’t come from giant farming operations that have planes mist crops with pesticides. Hand watering your own organics will give you a rich and varied flavor experience you didn’t realize you were missing out on from commercial lettuces.
Romaine Changing Color To Red
Not all romaine lettuce is reddish in color. Even those that are partially red will still have green parts if your bought green romaine lettuce and it is changing color, no worries. This is a result of natural ethylene gas given off by numerous vegetables or fruits.
Sadly romaine is especially sensitive to exposure. The color means your lettuce is no longer at peak freshness, and you should eat it or get rid of it soon. However, the enzymes in the lettuce that change the color are harmless, and it is still safe to ingest at this point.
How Can You Tell If Iceberg Lettuce Is Bad
Although iceberg lettuce that is turning red probably isn’t the freshest, it is fine to eat. So how do you tell if your iceberg lettuce has gone bad? There are several reliable tests you can perform at home using your own senses.
- Look at the lettuce. If your iceberg lettuce is brown, wilted, dried out, or even moldy, then you should not eat it. Trust your eyes, and don’t risk poisoning if you are uncertain.
- Please give it a sniff. Lettuce should smell like lettuce. Though it can pick up odors from other things in the fridge, such as cut onions, lettuce generally smells like it does when you first harvest it. If your lettuce smells bad or weird, toss it out.
- Touch the lettuce. Rotting lettuce turns soft. First, it will probably wilt on the outside. You can remove a couple of wilted leaves and eat a still-fresh center. However, if you grab the lettuce and feel squishy and soft rather than crisp, it is rotten lettuce.
- Don’t mess with slime. Any food that looks or feels slimy is probably bad for you. Unless it’s escargot, nopales, or an aloe-based drink, slime is not a food, and that applies to iceberg lettuce as well.
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How Do You Keep Lettuce From Turning Red
When you get lettuce in the grocery store, you may have placed it into one of those thin plastic bags. If you want to prevent your lettuce from turning red, you will have to put in a little more effort to keep it fresh. Particularly when you grow lettuces at home, storing them properly is essential.
You don’t want to spend all the time and energy growing fresh lettuce so that you can throw it away. After you have washed and dried your fresh lettuce, get a paper towel or two. A damp paper towel in a plastic bag will help keep your lettuce longer.
Alternately, store individual leaves dry in a plastic container with a lid. Keep this away from the back of your refrigerator where the coolant lines run to avoid accidental freezing. Also, make sure to use lettuce leaf stored in the fridge within a day or two at most to prevent bacterial growth.
Prevent Cut Lettuce From Turning Red Or Brown
As strange as this may sound, cutting lettuce can cause it to turn red or brown at the edges. Slicing into your vegetables exposes more of the plant to oxygen. Resultantly, you get more oxidation.
Opt for a plastic lettuce knife to prevent the metal from a standard kitchen knife from rubbing along fresh cuts and inducing more red coloration. Additionally, rinse your lettuce in lemon and water solution. Use cold water and a few drops of lemon juice, so you don’t accidentally flavor the lettuce.
Citric acid works to prevent oxidation. You can also use a squeeze of fresh lemon juice on avocado or even apples to avoid brown coloration.
Can You Eat Lettuce That Is Turning Brown
If your lettuce was stored properly, then turning a little brown is like red on your lettuce, safe to eat. Brown spots may not look tasty, but they aren’t usually dangerous. However, keep an eye out for mold spots, which are bad for your health.
If you suspect the color is a patch of mold, it’s best to throw the whole head of lettuce away. Similarly, brown slime on lettuce is a sign that it has definitely passed the expiration date. Otherwise, lettuce kept in an airtight container can last up to three weeks regardless of a few brown patches. Cut them off and eat the rest.
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Don’t worry too much about your iceberg lettuce turning red. A little oxidized iron with your fibrous greens won’t hurt you or the plant. Other than looking strange and unappetizing, it is not a problem.
However, if your iceberg lettuce is some other color, such as brown or black, don’t eat it. Most color changes, especially after you cut your lettuce, are not a problem. However, from rot to fungus sign. Since you don’t want to get sick, avoid any lettuce that is a color other than green or red for safety.
Enzyme activity in iceberg lettuce is more noticeable due to its pale color. Luckily, you can appreciate the bizarre, scientific explanation for this effect and enjoy your salad even when it has hints of red coloration.