Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Washing Produce

I took a picture of some spinach taking a bath and realized I had never gone over how to wash produce.  What needs to be washed and how well?  Any special cleaning products?  Doesn't it all cook off?

The only thing I don't wash is bananas, but I do wash my hands after peeling if I'm going to cut the flesh.  I know some people who do wash banana skins.

So why do we need to wash produce?  Especially the stuff that comes "triple-washed" in a bag.  It's washed.  It says so.  And organic food isn't treated with pesticides, so it's ok.  Right?

I wash the veggies I grow myself even more than the ones from the store, and I know I've used only organic, herb-based pesticides, if any at all.  Scary, disgusting things come out my artichokes, and I'm not going into what came off the broccoli a few years ago.  Those bugs may not make it into the grocery stores, but they were on your veggies at some point.  Birds poop, rain sends down pollution, and countless other things happen in fields and orchards.  Not to mention you have no idea how clean the hands were of every other person who picked, packed, stocked, or handled the item you eventually bought to take home.  Wash your produce.

I wouldn't buy into any of those vegetable cleaning products, though.  I scrub tough things like root vegetables and citrus with dish soap and their own dedicated scrubby.  Whole fruits, including tomatoes, get run under water for several seconds.  For easily bruised fruits and leafy greens, the procedure is very easy.  Scrub a sink and its plug with either dish soap or a light bleach solution and rinse thoroughly.  Fill the sink a couple of inches deep with cold water and a couple handfuls of ice.  Toss in fruit or veggie and swish it around.  Strain or spin dry and you're ready to go.  The spinach in the photo was remarkably clean as spinach goes, but it still looked like the beach at the bottom of the sink when I was done.

Also a neat trick for cleaning leafy veggies:  Cut unwashed lettuce, kale, or cabbage on a cutting board, then slide the contents into the prepared sink.  You don't have to cut dripping veggies.  They can go straight to the next step in your recipe, all washed, cut, and ready to roll.

And a little reminder not to wash your produce until you're ready to use it.  If you put it back in the fridge even slightly damp, it's going to spoil and/or get moldy.  The stuff in the market can stand a periodic misting because it's exposed to the air and has excellent drainage at the bottom of the shelf.  Most of us store produce in plastic bags in a plastic drawer in a closed fridge.  Not the same thing.

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