Whirling Lettuce

lettuce leaves

A hundred-years-ago Good Housekeeping magazine had a column that contained household tips submitted by readers.

Source: Good Housekeeping (January, 1916)
Source: Good Housekeeping (January, 1916)

When I wash lettuce, it’s always a little tricky to get it dry before making a salad, so I was very excited when I saw a tip for drying lettuce in the magazine:

To Dry Lettuce for a Salad

The most effective way of drying lettuce, I have found, is to place it in a clean dish towel after washing, gather the sides and corners in the hand so as to form a bag, step to the kitchen door, and whirl the bag at arm’s length three or four times. This drives out almost every particle of water from the lettuce.

Mrs. C. H. C., Colo.

Good Housekeeping (January, 1916)

Of course, I had to give it a whirl.

lettuce whirling

Do I recommend whirling lettuce to dry it?

Naw—I just about froze. It’s way too cold to whirl lettuce in January.

63 thoughts on “Whirling Lettuce

    1. 🙂 When I did it, I only put a little lettuce in my relatively small dishtowel because I was worried about it flying all over the place. If I was very serious about it, I definitely would have to find a larger towel.

  1. At some point in my life I actually had a spinning bowl for lettuce. It worked great, but it was plastic, so eventually it gave up the ghost. Makes me want to run out and buy another. Surely they have them at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

  2. Thank you for the early morning chuckle. I was reading along thinking “hmm, maybe I’ll give this a whirl” (sorry, I couldn’t resist) and then the punch line! Great post – thanks for sharing!

  3. See, I would have stayed inside and just stuck my arm (and the lettuce) out the door! Do you suppose this is where the Salad Spinner came from?

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it. There are some fun comments today. I’m so fortunate to have wonderful readers who take a few moments to write great comments.

  4. I loved this. I grew up whirling lettuce in exactly this way, and still do it from time to time. It really is effective, although it certainly isn’t an indoor technique. I remember seeing my mother do it, too, when I was a kid. (Obviously, I learned it from her.) There’s nothing like a living tradition — or seeing one of your common practices highlighted as a historical curiosity!

      1. When I tried it, the towel seemed too small; and it seemed like the lettuce might fly out. I like the idea of using a feed sack, if I could find one. (Whatever happened to cloth feed bags? Times – and the livestock industry – sure have changed over the years. Even though I can remember using towels that my mother made from feed sacks, it’s hard to imagine how feed manufacturers used to put livestock feed in bags designed to be re-purposed for household use.)

        1. I’ve still got some of the towels. They’re 30″ x 30″ square, so you can put the lettuce in the middle, pull up all four corners, and go to town, without risking lettuce loss.

    1. I’m finding that more and more of the things that I consider the “typical” way of doing something are now considered to be old-fashioned. 🙂

  5. 😄 Your braver than I to go out in the cold to dry lettuce. I like the idea of just drying it on a towel. Delightful post though!!

  6. Salad spinners are the perfect solution for this! I used to wash the lettuce and place it in a tupperware type bowl with paper towels in between layers. Put this in the fridge and you have lettuce ready to go.

  7. This might work for me. I think I am going to give my lettuce a whirl in the towel, maybe sewing a couple towels together will keep the lettuce from falling to the ground.

    1. They had 6 or 8 household tips in the magazine each month about a wide range things. For example, the tip right next to this one in the magazine was about how to separate chicken backbones from the meat.

  8. This photo made me laugh out loud! But I do like the idea–I have a plastic salad spinner that is huge and cumbersome and annoying. I’m going to find an old cotton pillowcase and use that to whirl lettuce your way!

    1. I’d glad you enjoyed the photo. My husband and I had fun taking it. I think that you’re on the right track, and that a pillowcase would work better than the little dish towel that I used.

    1. We both have excellent taste in dish towels. 🙂 I have to admit that I use damp lettuce in my salads, too. After I wash it, I generally lay it on a paper towel for a moment and then use it–but it’s never completely dry.

  9. It looks like a lot of fun, and if need be, you could always name a band Whirling Lettuce, or ask something philosophical, like “What is the sound of whirling lettuce?” I confess to just liking to say whirling lettuce now, and it is going to be my new catch-phrase. Maybe it will even replace the greatness of sliced bread and we will all be saying “That’s the greatest thing since whirling lettuce.”

    1. Interesting. . . Based on the comments, I’ve been amazed how many people use this approach. I’d never heard of it until I read the tip in the old magazine.

  10. I am a bit late to the whirling lettuce party, but I think I’ll still step in for a spin around the yard. I agree, this was such a fun post (and the comments too!) Flour sacking (and all things farm-chic in general) can be found on Etsy, as well as all over the Hudson Valley where I live; new graphic artists are adding their fun silk screened images to four sacking and selling them like hotcakes. I still have my 1987-era plastic salad spinner, but find I still need to blot lettuce greens dry with my tea towels (on my 1940s enamel-top kitchen table 🙂 (How were you at hula-hoops?)

    1. 🙂 Hmm. . . I was a complete failure at hula-hoops, but an expert at pogo sticking. I actually managed to fall off a pogo stick a year or two ago. I found my old pogo stick and thought that (just like bicycling) one never forgets how to do it. Well, I was wrong. It kicked me off on the first bounce.

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