We all know that we should be washing our fruits and veggies. But, everyone seems to do it differently. Do you need to wash organic veggies? Or do you need a commercial soap to get the pesticides off the GMO fruits? We have all your answers and more… Read on!
Importance of Food Safety
When we ask why food safety is important, the first question should be why is our food unsafe?
There are many reasons for this, from natural environmental factors to man-made disasters. The most natural and normal contamination comes from animals defecating on plants (bird droppings, squirrel fur, bugs, etc.). They don’t do it intentionally, it’s Nature. Dirt also has its bugs and fungus. For these, it’s a simple matter of just rinsing the produce of the matter.
Then we had to make things more difficult. There are pesticides that are designed to stick to the skin of fruits and vegetables. Remember, pesticides are designed to maim and kill. A drop can be enough to kill a large dog, 2 drops for a human. But, a single drop can kill a whole colony of ants. Dosage is important.
But, do you know how much pesticide you are eating? Does the apple contain a ¼ drop or a whole drop? Does the broccoli hide 2 drops in its leaves? The point is you don’t know. And this is why you should wash vegetables and fruits and you should wash fruits and vegetables every time.
Does washing fruits and vegetables remove pesticides? Yes and no, it depends on how you wash them. Some pesticides are designed to wash off fast, and some are designed to stick to the fruit even during torrential rains. All are designed to kill.
Read on to discover both commercial and natural cleaners that will remove the worst of the pesticides.
But first, a related question:
Why Do Grocery Stores Spray Water on Vegetables?
For some produce, keeping them moist keeps them fresh longer. For others, it makes them look good. The key to note is that fresh produce does not need to be sprayed or treated in any way. It will stick around a couple of days (lettuces and leaves wilt at 1 day, but are still safe to eat). Those that are treated, sprayed, and manipulated are done so because they are old.
Best Ways to Clean Vegetables and Fruits for Juicing
Preparing vegetables and fruits for juicing is little different than preparing for other cooking. In fact, many juicers require you to remove the skins from produce because it clogs the system. This is unfortunate because many of the nutrients are bound in the skins. A good juicer will keep the skins.
What fruits and vegetables do you peel for juicing? That depends on your juicer. If you have a good one, just fruits and vegetables you wouldn’t eat the skins anyways (mangos, pineapples, winter squash). For others, you need to make your skin and their nutrients disappear. We have recommendations on good juicers in this article.
So, the best ways to wash fruits and vegetables to remove pesticides, dirt, and all the other stuff is simple – water and a cleaning agent. What cleaning agent depends on how natural your produce is.
If you are cleaning vegetables from the garden, and you don’t use any pesticides, and you know your ground is clear of contaminants, we recommend just water. Why? Because natural soil contains more probiotics than yogurt. There are hundreds of good bacteria that help you be healthy. In fact, there have been studies done on children and soil probiotics. Turns out, those who play in the dirt are healthier. They have fewer health problems and are stronger.
Fruit and Vegetable Cleaners
There have been hundreds of fruit and vegetable wash sprays * that have come on the market. Unfortunately, not many of them stick around very long. They don’t work well or people find them too expensive.
Organic vegetable and fruit wash came into vogue as people became more aware of the danger of pesticides. People started to understand why they should wash organic vegetables just as much as they should wash conventional ones.
Off Topic Question:
Should You Wash Fruits and Vegetables with Soap?
No, we do not recommend you wash your vegetables with soap. Most soaps contain chemicals that cause such thing as the breakdown of fats and lipids, and antibacterial and fragrance chemical that are toxic (many of these are now being banned in most countries around the world). Ingesting any of these could cause serious illness, even if it’s only a few residues that remain on your produce. Over time, it could make you very sick.
Here are our picks for the top vegetable and fruit cleaning solutions:
Natural Ways to Clean Fruits and Vegetables
We’re going to show you how to clean fruits and vegetables naturally. It’s not really as hard as you think. You can use everything from homemade vegetable washes to remove pesticides all the way up to bleaches and peroxides to help get the nasty gunk off.
The simplest way to wash fruits and vegetables is a water cleanse. Water removes many contaminants, dirt and can even remove some pesticides. But, it will not work for pesticides that are water resistant or waxes. Water is also the fastest way to wash your fruits and vegetables, as it works within a few moments. Just run your fruits and vegetables under running cool water for the simplest of cleanses.
If you know your vegetables contain no pesticides or chemicals, this is really all you need. You just need to be able to remove dirt and bacteria. These wash off easily when you don’t have to deal with chemicals.
If you don’t know where your produce comes from, where there’s a chance that they could have pesticides on them, you want more natural ways to remove pesticides from your fruits and vegetables.
We are going to start off by talking about washing fruits and vegetables in salt water or baking soda. This is one that circulates around quite often because it’s easy and cheap. Unfortunately, it really doesn’t work very well. The main premise is that the grains will scrape off the pesticides and waxes. This is true if you were dealing with a thick layer of material you want to get off.
But, it will not remove a thin layer of pesticides and it could make your food taste bad. Both the salt and baking soda add a tremendous amount of sodium. And, if you don’t meticulously wash off the entire residue, it could dehydrate your food, causing shriveling and spoiling. It could also add unhealthy levels of sodium to your diet.
Many of the pesticides that you’re trying to wash off are actually resistant to salts. Salts form very easily in nature. The companies that produce the pesticides want their chemical to stick around and work as long as possible, that means being resisted to Nature.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, we have acid washes. And you have some of the best acids to clean pesticides in your cupboard and under your sink. We are talking about lemon juice and vinegar.
A lemon wash for your vegetables works very well to remove minor traces of pesticides and can cut through thin wax layers. If you produce comes from smaller local farms where pesticides are rarely used, this is a good wash. It worked very well for fruits, especially the fruits that are prone to oxidation, such as apples, pears, and very dark colored fruits.
Stepping it up one more notch we can wash our fruits and vegetables with vinegar *. Vinegar is a very powerful cleaning agent that has been around for thousands of years. It is shown to be one of the strongest cleaning agents; so much so that hospitals and doctors offices are now going back to cleaning with it. Many drug-resistant bacteria and viruses are still being killed off with this simple solution.
In order to make a vinegar solution for cleaning, you have to know where your fruits and vegetables are coming from. Those that do not have high chances of being contaminated with pesticides or other chemicals can use a weak solution of vinegar.
To do this:
The produce will need enough time in the solution in order to allow it to work.
If you are using conventional or grocery store fruits and vegetables, you want something a little bit stronger. For this you want:
Produce with thick wax layers should be submerged up to 20 minutes, but the vinegar will not remove the thick wax.
Chlorine Wash for Vegetables
You don’t want to use Clorox for fruits and vegetables. Bleach and other chlorine wash work very well to remove pesticides and waxes, but if you don’t remove the residue of the cleaning agent you risk your health. It takes very little bleach to cause an upset stomach. A young child can be killed with as little as a few drops. Repeated exposure to chlorine and bleach can cause seizures and eventually death.
Peroxide Wash for Fruits and Vegetables
This one works and doesn’t work at the same time. Peroxide will not wash off most chemicals and waxes. But it does work very well on produce that has been exposed to viruses and bacteria. This is a wash that can be used as a secondary cleanse for produce if you have grave concerns about being exposed to harmful microbes.
Think of this as an antibacterial wash for fruits and vegetables rather than something that will clean off chemicals. But just remember, many fruits and vegetables have probiotics on their skin that help digestion. Unless there is a great need to avoid as many bacteria and viruses as possible, such as the case of autoimmune disorders or chemotherapy, we don’t recommend this type of cleaning.
How to Wash Fruits and Vegetables
So now, we’re going to talk about how to wash different fruits and vegetables to make sure you get the bad stuff out of all those little nooks and crannies.
How to Wash Vegetables to Avoid Toxoplasmosis
This is the most common type of parasite found in humans. Around the world, it is estimated 95% of the population has come into contact with this protozoa. Fortunately, our immune system is able to help keep this and check and very few people actually get sick. In the United States, it causes approximately 200,000 cases of food poisoning a year, the most common cause. Yet, it attributes very few deaths. (US CDC statistics).
The most common sources of this problem are meats that have been exposed to the parasite and undercooked meats and cat feces. The warmer and more humid your climate, the greater chance you have of being exposed.
It’s actually very easy to avoid this problem. First, cook your meats to the proper temperature. Second, wash your hands after handling felines or their excrement. Third, make sure you use separate utensils and cutting boards for your meats and vegetables.
It is very rare to find this parasite on fruits and vegetables. Only in large commercial operations that use fecal matter and other sewage waste to fertilize their field will you run into this problem. It is one of the main reasons you should shop local and get to know your farmers. (The use of fecal matter and sewage waste is very common in lower-income areas and on large commercial properties).
How to Wash Vegetables and Fruits to Remove Parasites
The majority of the parasites you were going to find in fruits and vegetables will be of the microscopic variety. Fortunately, most of them will be removed a very simple wash with water and vinegar.
But, you don’t have to worry about many of the parasites on fruits and vegetables unless they come from larger commercial properties. For one, the natural process of growth does not allow most of the parasites that bother humans to grow. Secondly, it is once humans begin packaging and processing of food, and the swiftness that big companies demand high profits, that mistakes are made, corners are cut, and harmful microbes are introduced.
If you stick to smaller, locally-grown operations, your chances of encountering a parasite at all are minimal. Washing your produce properly will take your risk to nearly nothing.
How to Wash Wax off Fruits and Vegetables
A few fruits and vegetables produce their own natural wax. Fortunately, when the wax is produced naturally, it is something we can consume without any problems. This epicuticular wax is produced by most fruits and many vegetables. It looks like a fine dusting of white powder.
Unfortunately, humans have introduced many petroleum-based waxes to preserve produce. These are harmful to us. The wax is mainly there to prevent the loss of moisture from the produce, avoid damage during transport, and to make it look pretty. Basically, it’s tricking you into thinking your produce is fresher and healthier than it actually is.
Unfortunately, whether we’re dealing with petroleum-based waxes, shellac, or other non-natural organic waxes, there is no easy way to remove it. It requires more powerful chemicals than what you can create at home. Best way to remove wax is to simply remove the skin that it’s attached to. And by removing the skin, you remove many of the healthy nutrients that make fruits and vegetables worth eating.
Our recommendation is to choose fruits and vegetables from farmers and vendors that do not use wax at all.
Best Way to Wash Strawberries
Strawberries are a piece of produce that is commercially grown with the use of a lot of pesticides. So washing all of those pesticides off strawberries becomes very important. But, if you find a local vendor, the chances of them using a lot of pesticides, or any at all, become much smaller.
Our recommendation is to wash strawberries in vinegar. The vast majority of the pesticides will have gathered in the little nooks and crannies around the seeds. You won’t be able to dig into those little nooks and crannies, but the acid within the vinegar can penetrate those small places.
Of course, you want to make sure that your strawberries were not dipped in wax prior to shipping. This often happens with strawberries that come from far away places. Shop local, shop and season and you don’t have to worry about this.
Best Way to Wash Lettuce
Lettuce comes in two different forms, heading and lose leaf. As lettuce grows, the chances of dirt, bugs, and pesticide and chemical residue getting trapped between the leaves are very high. Washing it out is a challenge.
Heading lettuce, or lettuce that forms balls of tightly packed leaves will have dirt among the outer layers. Removing the outer leaves and washing them individually will be the only way to remove the debris.
Loose leaf lettuce is a little bit more challenging to wash. Because the residues can get to every portion of the leaf, you have to wash each leave separately.
Vinegar solution works best. Simply swirl each individual leaf for a few minutes in the solution and then use immediately. Unfortunately, if you wash your lettuce prior, the acid will cause the leaves to wilt rapidly. This goes for lettuces, cabbages, spinach and other leafy greens.
Best Way to Wash Raspberries
Raspberries and blackberries have a lot of nooks and crannies like strawberries do. Using a vinegar rinse for the berries is one of the best ways to clear out any pesticides and dirt. Since the berries float, you will want to get in and make sure each berry is in contact with the vinegar solution for several minutes. You can wash them all at once and store them for two to three days after washing them.
Surprisingly, a number of pesticides that have been using blueberries and the past couple years has diminished significantly. There are still many large operations that use pesticides, but smaller growers tend to avoid the pesticides altogether. If you trust your grower, you need to use water to clean your berries. Otherwise, you want to clean your blueberries with vinegar to remove any pesticide residue.
Apples are a tricky subject. Many of the commercially grown apples are sprayed with wax in order to preserve their moisture. You then have to remove the skins if you are preparing apples for juicing or eating.
But, if you find a local grower, most of the time they use very few pesticides and they do not use wax. Many small, local growers will submerge their apples in water in order to preserve them. This was the most common way to store apples prior to refrigeration. They simply sunk a barrel of apples into a lake and pulled them out in the spring. Because of the water and lack of oxygen, the apples remained fresh.
To clean, submerge apples in a vinegar solution and make sure they remain in the solution. Apples tend to float so you’ll need to bob them under the water.
How to Clean Grapes
Depending on the year, grapes could be sprayed heavily with pesticides or completely left alone. In wet years, fungicides are often used to prevent mold growth. This actually happens at both large and small wineries and farms. Because the grapes are grown so close together, any kind of disease, fungus, mold, or other problem can be quickly passed around to the individual plants. One year of poor growth could shut an entire winery down. Therefore, these growers have no problem using chemicals to make sure the crop remains intact.
Add to it that grapes are often sprayed with wax to keep them plump and moist.
What you have is a recipe for a product that is difficult to wash and difficult appeal. In this case, we recommend cleaning grapes with a strong vinegar solution or a commercial spray design * to cut through all of these chemicals and waxes. It is unfortunate.
How to Wash Broccoli and Cauliflower
There are a lot of little nooks and crannies within these tightly packed flowers. Broccoli and cauliflower are subject to many different types of worms, moths, and other insects. So, larger farmers tend to spray these crops more than others. Washing can be a challenge.
Fortunately, water and vinegar do most of the work. Submerge the broccoli or cauliflower upside down in a vinegar solution and swirl around for several minutes. This allows the vinegar to do its work by removing pesticides and it will help dislodge any worms that might be hiding within your vegetable.
Best Way to Cut Vegetables and Fruits
Cutting Vegetables and Fruits
Depending on who you talk to, there’s a right way and a wrong way to cut vegetables. Chefs will tell you to do it one way while home cooks will tell you to do another. As long as your fruit and vegetable are cut up into fairly even portions and in the shape you want it, you’ve cut it up the right way.
Cut fruits and vegetables are just healthy as their whole counterpart. But this is only true if you keep all of the edible portions. Most fruits and vegetables have a skin and core that can be eaten. Many of the nutrients found in fruits and vegetables are bound up in the skins. This is why we recommend you keep the skin when you cook and juice your fruits and vegetables.
Can I cut vegetables and fruits ahead of time?
The answer is yes, but we do not recommend it. As soon as you cut into your fruits and vegetables, oxidation and enzyme activity start breaking down the tissue of the fruit and vegetable. That means you’re losing nutrients, flavor, and texture. And as we repeat a little bit later on, there’s really no way to put a hold on this activity.
We recommend waiting no more than a couple hours from cutting a piece of produce to consuming it. That way you retain all the nutrients and taste.
Do cut vegetables and fruits need to be refrigerated?
Absolutely. Unless you are using your produce right away, you will want to refrigerate your cut fruits and vegetables. Between the oxidation and enzyme activity, the flesh gives off different chemicals that encourage bacteria, flies, and other scavenger insects to consume the flesh and lay their eggs. You risk your health if you leave cut fruits and vegetables in the open.
Which Knife to Cut Vegetables and Fruits?
There are many types of knives you can use, so use what you are most comfortable with. This can be a small blade or a large blade. What you do want to make sure of it is that the blade is sharp. A sharp blade is not only safer for you, but it will cut your vegetable cleanly and evenly. Other than that, we encourage you to try different styles and length of blades to see what works best for you. Also, there are many different websites and YouTube videos produced by professional chefs that will show you how to use a knife properly.
Types of Cuts
Why Cut Vegetables Diagonally
Many fruits and vegetables have fiber that goes the length of the body. These fibers are very tough. By cutting your produce on a diagonal you are producing a large surface area and reducing the length of the fibers. This will make your produce tender and pick up a lot of additional flavors from things like butter and sauces.
Why Cut Vegetables Uniformly
When cooking, timing depends on knowing how long a piece of food will cook. If your produce is cut in various different sizes, they will cook in various different time frames. You don’t want a carrot on one side of your plate that’s hard as a rock and the one on the other side is nothing but a mushy mess. If you cut them evenly, testing a single piece will tell you how all of them have cooked.
How to Cut Vegetables and Fruits Fast
There are hundreds of videos on YouTube that will show you how to cut fruits and vegetables. We recommend using Chef Todd Mohr.
How long are cut vegetables and fruits good for? Unfortunately, once you cut a fruit or vegetable, the decay process starts. Some produce is good for a couple hours while some may last a couple of days. But, you always risk contamination once you cut your produce. We recommend using your cut fruits and vegetables as soon as you cut them.
While you should always wash your vegetables prior to cutting them, washing your vegetables after you cut them may be advised. This can remove any bacteria that were transferred from the outside to the inner flesh by the knife. However, washing produce after you’ve cut them is a lot more challenging than washing them prior.
Peeling Vegetables and Fruits
Some fruits and vegetables need to be peeled when their skin is inedible or very difficult to eat. For example, can you do peel mangoes before you eat them? The skin is very tough and inedible.
But, most fruits and vegetables you can eat the skins. For these produce items, much of the nutrition lies in the skins. You don’t want to peel them. The nutrition of peeled foods goes way down.
For example, you do not need to peel carrots before you juice them nor do you need to peel beets before eating them. The outer skin is actually just flesh. It’s hardened and a little rough because of contact with the dirt. The same thing goes for any root vegetables.
Citrus is another fruit that you don’t need to peel, but it is better to peel. For juicing, you should peel orange and lemons. That’s because there are many better agents within the peel that could cause your juice to taste poorly. However, the peel is completely edible and contains a lot of essential oils and nutrients that are very healthy.
Other fruits like apples, you want to keep the peel as much as possible.
How to Keep Cut Fruit Fresh
Here’s the thing, you cannot keep fresh fruit fresh once it’s cut. The enzymes and oxidation occur naturally will cause spoilage. This can happen within a couple hours or within a couple of days. However, it will happen.
Lemon juice will help reduce oxidation, most notably seen and apples and potatoes. Plastic wrap can help keep out oxygen. Chilling your fruits and vegetables to 4 degrees Centigrade will slow bacterial growth and the enzyme activity.
Other than these activities, you really don’t have many choices. This is why we recommend you use your cut vegetables immediately.
Where to Buy Veggie and Fruit Wash
We have some links really are on in this article about where to buy the washes for fruits and vegetables. If you missed it, here they are again.
Fruit and Vegetable Washer Machine
Yes, they do make a machine that washes your fruits and vegetables. But, unless you have an issue that your vegetables must be sterile or you are doing an exceptionally high volume, we do not recommend using a machine. You will get to know your food better and know your vegetables are truly clean if you do it by hand.
Plus, all those healthy probiotics we mentioned earlier, they are removed or killed in the machines. Your vegetables are actually healthier when you wash them by hand.
Best Vegetable Brush
When I was looking in the stores for a vegetable washing brush I had to laugh. There were a bunch of simple brushes as that was overpriced simply because they called themselves a vegetable washing brush.
Save yourself some money. Buy yourself simple stiff paint brush. Keep it simple, this is something you would want to replace often. When the bristles start to crack or there’s a chance of developing any kind of mold or build up, replace the brush. If you keep it simple and keep it cheap, you can do this often without worry.
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