Don’t forget to wash your hands… and your fresh vegetables

When it comes to washing fresh vegetables and fruits, there are five basic rules:

• Wash hands with warm soapy water, for at least 20 seconds, before handling fresh produce.

• Wash all fresh produce under clean, running water before peeling, cutting or eating.

• Scrubbing with a clean brush is only recommended for produce with a tough rind or peel — such as carrots, potatoes, cucumbers and squash — that will not be brushed or scratched by the brush bristles.

• Discard outer leaves of leafy vegetables like lettuce and cabbage before washing.

• Do not wash fruits and vegetables with bleach or soaps — it can be absorbed into the product and change the taste.

What about pesticides: Pesticides are strictly controlled by the FDA, USDA and EPA, and the health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables outweigh their possible presence. A lot of the pesticides are water-soluble and will come off with water, which is another reason to wash fruit and vegetables before you eat them.

Drying produce with a paper towel may further reduce bacteria. Although it is not necessary for items that will be cooked.

Washing with water is just as effective as consumer produce washes. Many produce washes include surfactants, which are cleaning agents. They work by attaching to oil and dirt and loosen water-resistant substances like wax. To use on food, they need to be registered with the EPA. However, research shows that washing produce with tap water is just as effective as washing produce with any produce wash solutions that are on the market.

You can wash produce with baking soda and vinegar, however:

• Vinegar may affect flavor.

• Baking soda contains sodium which may affect the flavor of the produce. The strength of baking soda and water mixtures affects its cleaning ability.

For preparing salads, leafy greens like spinach, chard, kale and collards that are not pre-bagged need to be rinsed because many grow in sandy soils.

There is no need to wash bagged leafy green salads in sealed bags labeled “washed,” “triple washed” or “ready-to-eat.” They don’t need additional washing at the time of use unless specially directed on the label.

Fresh produce in the summer can provide many great dishes. You can find lots of ways to incorporate your produce into your diet. A great salad is always a hit at cookouts.

 

Cindy Williams41 Posts

Cindy Williams is the Meadowlark Extension District agent in the areas of food and nutrition.

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