Wash Fruit and Vegetables
Eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables is key to maintaining a healthy diet and overall lifestyle. However, the increasing number of food-borne outbreaks related to produce and growing concern about the use of pesticides on produce have made food safety an important issue in recent years. Washing your fruits and vegetables remains one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from illnesses and chemical contamination. Here are a number of ways in which you can effectively wash and handle your fruits and vegetables prior to cooking them.
Method 1 of 3: Rinsing Produce with Water
1. Prepare produce for washing.
Prepare produce for washing. Remove fruits and vegetables from any packaging.
The water rinse method is effective for all fruits and vegetables. However, some types of vegetables, including broccoli, lettuce leaves, or spinach, often require additional attention and cleaning.
If you have packaged produce labeled “ready-to-eat,” “washed” or “triple washed,” do not re-wash.
For fruits and vegetables that have a skin, the Food and Drug Administration recommends that you wash them BEFORE you peel them.
Remove stickers from produce. It most likely won’t harm you to eat the sticker; however, this is not recommended and it is best to remove them before washing. Otherwise, the part underneath the sticker will not be cleaned.
2. Wash your hands
Wash your hands. Use warm, soapy water to make sure that your hands are clean before handling any fresh produce. Wash for at least 20 seconds.
3. Cut away any damaged or bruised areas of your produce
Cut away any damaged or bruised areas of your produce. Bruises and cuts can allow pathogens to enter the fruit or vegetable.
4. Clean your countertop, cutting boards, and utensils
Clean your countertop, cutting boards, and utensils. After you prepare each food item, wash kitchen surfaces and utensils with hot, soapy water.
Keeping your workspace clean is especially important if you have peeled your produce without washing it. Bacteria from the outside of raw produce can be transferred to the inside when it is cut or peeled.
5. Rinse produce with cool or cold water
Rinse produce with cool or cold water. You’ll want to make sure the water is potable, meaning safe to drink.
You can use warm water, but it’s best used if you’re planning to cook the fruits and vegetables after washing.
Place a colander in the sink to expedite the process of rinsing your produce. Because you can wash more than one thing at once, a colander is especially useful if you are cleaning fruit and vegetables that are loose, such as beans or fresh peas.
Just a little rinsing is fine—you don’t need to overdo it.
6. Be gentle with fragile produce
Be gentle with fragile produce. Some fruits and vegetables, like raspberries, which crush easily and become mushy when they take in too much water, should not washed vigorously. Instead, put delicate produce in a colander and gently spray with water.
Mushrooms need to be cleaned differently than other vegetables. If you rinse them too much or soak them water, they will become soggy. If you must rinse them, do it lightly, with just a sprinkle of water. Dry immediately and gently with paper towels. The best way to clean mushrooms is wipe them with a clean, just damp cloth or paper towel.
7. Scrub any produce with a thick skin
Scrub any produce with a thick skin. Use a vegetable brush to scrub produce such as potatoes and carrots, which are grown in soil, or cucumbers and melons. Brushing them helps to wash away hard-to-remove microbes; just make sure the brush isn’t too rough or it could damage the produce.
8. Inspect your produce
Inspect your produce. Make sure there are no specs of dirt or any tiny bugs remaining on your fruit and vegetables. If you find some, re-wash the produce.
9. Dry produce after washing
Dry produce after washing. Dry everything you have rinsed with a clean paper towel. This will remove any lingering bacteria.
Method 2 of 3: Soaking Produce
1. Fill your sink with cool, potable water
Fill your sink with cool, potable water. You can also use a bucket or other container if you don’t want to fill your sink.
Use this method for fruits and vegetables with a lot of surface area (such as grapes), that are attached or packed tightly (like strawberries or blueberries) or have deep crevices (cauliflower, broccoli, and leafy greens).
2. Dip your fruits and vegetables into the water and swirl or swish them around
Dip your fruits and vegetables into the water and swirl or swish them around. Make sure there is a bit of movement here so that the outside of the produce can be thoroughly cleaned.
This method is effective for grapes and other foods which have a lot of surface area and are tightly packed. Because they are immersed in water, the water can cover their entire outer surface, something that is considerably harder to do with just a rinse.
3. Soak produce with a lot of nooks and crannies for 1-2 minutes
Soak produce with a lot of nooks and crannies for 1-2 minutes. Vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, and leafy greens need extra attention because they have lots of places where dirt and microbes can hide.
Leafy greens have their own particular method for cleaning. First, separate the leaves first. Then, soak the leaves and drain them in a strainer or colander. Repeat this process. The goal here is dilution. Once finished, dry with a clean towel or salad spinner.
Soaking all kinds of fruits and vegetables – not just your greens, but fruits like strawberries too – has recently become popular. Soaking is a restorative process that can revive your produce, enhance its taste and prolong its life.
4. Clean everything after each use
Clean everything after each use. Use warm, soapy water to wash your colander, salad spinner or basin when ready to move on to another fruit or vegetable.
Method 3 of 3: Using Other Solutions
1. Use distilled water to rinse and/or soak produce of all varieties
Use distilled water to rinse and/or soak produce of all varieties. Distilled or bottled water has been filtered and purified to remove contaminants.
You can also used very clean cold tap water to clean produce instead of distilled water.
2. Use a saltwater solution
Use a saltwater solution. Soak fruits and vegetables of all varieties in water for 5 minutes with 1-2 teaspoons of salt. Then, rinse to wash out the salt.
3. Use a water-and-vinegar solution to soak produce of all varieties
Use a water-and-vinegar solution to soak produce of all varieties. Soak produce in a mixture of water and vinegar (1/2 cup distilled white vinegar per 2 cups of water) for 5-15 minutes. Then, rinse.
This has been shown to move pesticides and reduce – though not eliminate – bacteria. This solution may, however, affect texture and taste.
4. Use a “fruit and veggie” commercial wash
Use a “fruit and veggie” commercial wash. These washes, basically rinses and other treatments, are now sold in grocery and health food stores.
Some brands include: Dr. Mercola’s Fruit and Vegetable Wash, Fit Organic Fruit and Vegetable Wash, Ozone Water Purifier XT-301, J0-4 Multi-Functional Food Sterilizer (Indoor Purification Systems, Layton, UT).
Researchers at the University of Maine tested some of these products against a basic water wash and found no significant differences between a “fruit veggie wash” and a water wash. In fact, in some of their tests, the water wash was more effective in cleaning fruit from outside substances than the commercial washes.