My aunt and uncle have a farm with a garden, and many fruit trees and bushes. They enjoy vegetables as well as fresh picked apples or pears and berries right off the bush. While it takes work, they enjoy their nutrient-rich bounty throughout the year.
Even with so many fresh, organically grown choices, they still purchase items from the dirty dozen list from time to time. Since it is important to wash all fresh produce whether conventionally or organically grown regardless if it comes from the "dirty" list or the Clean 15, it is important to know the most effective way.
Washing fresh produce is important to remove various types of bacteria such as e.coli, salmonella, or Staphylococcus aureus. The FDA recommends washing produce with a large amount of cold or warm tap water and using a scrub brush on tougher skinned produce such as cucumbers or apples when the skin is going to be consumed. Although supermarkets do not typically wash produce before putting it out for sale, those with store misters do provide a benefit. The routine misting not only keeps the produce from drying out, it also repeatedly drains off surface residue similar to undergoing a light wash under the kitchen faucet.
There are chemical fruit and vegetable washes that claim to remove wax as well as pesticides and 99.9% of surface bacteria. The Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Maine tested three commercial wash treatments following product directions on lowbush blueberries. They found that one removed about the same level of microbes as distilled water and both (the wash and distilled water) reduced levels of residual pesticides. While the other two ozone systems removed microbes, distilled water was more effective. Natural cleaners containing acetic acid are another option. A study several years ago by the editors of Cook's Illustrated did some comparative cleaning of apples and pears to see how rinsing with a vinegar and water solution compared with water alone, antibacterial soap or scrubbing with a brush. The vinegar and water solution was the hands down winner removing 98% of present bacteria compared to only 85% from scrubbing.
While organic produce may not be grown using conventional pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, it is very important to wash them thoroughly. Many beneficial natural fertilizers come from micro-organisms, compost, and dried manure. All of these pose potential health risks if produce is not properly washed before consumption. So whether you are purchasing your produce at a farmers market or the supermarket, or growing them in your own organic garden, here are several safe and effective ways to make your own produce cleaners to ensure your favorite fruits and vegetables are as safe as possible.
Soaks - You can make your own natural super soak using common household items. Mix equal parts vinegar (white or apple cider) with distilled water or dissolve one teaspoon of table salt for each cup of water to create your soak. Allow fresh produce to sit in the mixture for 10-20 minutes and then rinse under cool water.
Sprays - You can easily make your own super solution for a spray-topped misting bottle. Mix one tablespoon lemon juice, two tablespoons baking soda per one cup of distilled water. Spray fruit or vegetables, let sit for five to ten minutes and then rinse under cool water. If you prefer not wasting prep time waiting, mix one tablespoon lemon juice, two tablespoons distilled white vinegar and one cup distilled water, spray fruits or vegetables and pat dry.
Do you worry about organisms, pesticides, or fertilizers on your produce? Do you already use a wash or rinse on your fresh produce? Will you begin to use one now?
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