Whether you are buying organic fruits and vegetables or not, it is important to clean it thoroughly before eating or cooking with it. From the fields, through the entire distribution process, a lot of hands touch your produce before it ever makes it to your kitchen.
And let’s face it, I have absolutely no confidence in the washing process that the food industry claims that they put all of their open produce though. Whenever I see one of those prepackaged bags that read triple washed, I ignored it and wash it again because the industry uses chlorine to remove bacteria and mold. I am more confident in my rinse process than theirs.
In fact, before I eat apples or carrots, I rinse them under running water using a small amount of dishwashing liquid win my hands. I know this sounds a bit odd but I do not think dishwashing soap is any worse for me than pesticide residue. I’ll take my chances with Dawn.
However, I do not recommend that you wash anything with any bleach solutions no matter how tough the outer shell. They can still be porous allowing the absorption of chemicals from the detergents.
Believe it or not, the industry is now selling rinses used specifically for cleaning raw produce, however, I do not know if they are worth the extra expense or trouble. It seems to me that if you are going to go that route, you might as well pay the additional amount and buy organic. Besides, I do not know if these have been approved by the FDA.
I am very cautious with apples since the EPA has labeled non-organic apples one of the most dangerous fruits or vegetables in terms of pesticide residue. If given the choice, I will buy organic apples, but in a pinch, I wash them thoroughly as described above.
Whether you are preparing produce for a meal or for ingredients in a smoothie, there are a few things you need to remember to do before cutting and consuming fruits or vegetables.
How to Clean Vegetables
Before you begin cleaning your new fruits and veggies, be sure to wash your hands. I realize that sounds like a no-brainer, but this is something you need to get into a habit of doing multiple times while you are preparing food to avoid cross-contamination, especially if preparing raw meats or eggs at the same time.
Next, be sure to wipe down any countertops or cutting boards before and after peeling or dicing any produce. For instance, if you are cutting a kiwi in half, be sure to wash the cutting board before proceeding to slicing a tomato on the same board. Generally, I will use different cutting boards for meats or veggies.
If you have a vegetable with a thick outer skin, you may want to use a veggie brush designed to get into all of the crevices which can contain bacteria and microbes.
How to Clean Fruit
Fruits and veggies that have an outer shell like kiwis or bananas can contain bacteria on the outside which will be transferred to your chopping block. This also applies to any knife you are using to slice and dice. Rinse it with soapy water before proceeding to the next cut.
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How To Wash Vegetables - Leafy Greens
Whenever I purchase leafy greens, I normally store them in the fridge right away without washing them. I do not like to put them in storage with any moisture from a recent cleaning. Instead, I wash what I will be eating on an as-needed basis.
Whenever I am cleaning a head of lettuce or other leafy green, I peel off the outer leaves and cut away any stems or outer portions that may have been exposed to more contaminants.
Leafy greens such as Romaine or Kale should be washed thoroughly before consuming. One of the methods I use is to soak the leaves in a large bowl of water and a small amount of vinegar. This will eliminate some of the possible bacteria. I usually let them soak for 5 to 10 minutes. Whenever you do this, you will be surprised at how much dirt settles in the bottom of the bowl from things like leafy greens or even broccoli.
Next, I rinse the leaves under running water in a colander, gently massaging them with my fingers to loosen any remaining debris or dirt.
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Finally, I dry the leaves using paper towels and place them in a zip lock bag in the refrigerator. I do not zip the bag closed though because it is better to allow circulation.
If you use anything like a salad spinner to dry the leaves, make sure you wash it with soap and water in between cleaning various types of vegetables to avoid any potential cross contamination.
Leafy greens should be stored in a temperature between 35 – 40 degrees F within 2 hours of purchasing them at the market.
Washing Other Types of Produce
Root Veggies - Vegetables with roots such as potatoes, green onions and carrots should be scrubbed with a veggie brush under warm water. It is very important to wash the outer layer of produce like a cantaloupe before cutting such microorganisms can hide in the crevices on the outside.
Berries – Store and wash on an as needed basis under warm running water just before consuming. This is especially important if you plan on freezing your blueberries as I do. If you wash them before storage, no matter how hard you try, moisture will remain, and they will freeze together in lumps making it difficult to consume.
Cilantro, Parsley, etc – With any type of leafy herb, I like to soak them in water with a little bit of vinegar before consuming. Again, it is best to do this on an as-needed basis since you do not want to store them moist in the refrigerator. However, I will admit that it is inconvenient to do this every time, so if you are going to soak leafy green before storing, make sure you dab them well with paper towels first.
Most fresh veggies will only last for a week or so when properly stored below 40 degrees F in a refrigerator. Therefore, whenever you go the grocery store or farmer’s market, you should only buy enough to get you through the next week.
Thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables using these methods is an effective way to reduce bacteria, dirt and residual amounts of pesticides.
Washing Fruits and Vegetables
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