It’s always important to wash your fruits and vegetables before noshing, whether you’re bringing them home from the supermarket, a farm stand, or your own backyard. But some produce degrades quickly once put under the faucet, and others can get a rinse before being put away. Here’s the DL on the F&V for your healthy consumption.
The United States Food and Drug administration recommends that you never put soap on your fruits and vegetables. Cleaning products can leave residues that are dangerous to consume. If you're still concerned about the safety of your food, cook it at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fresh spinach, red and green lettuce, bok choy, kale, and cabbage all have short shelf lives, so plan to use them up quickly. Leafy greens are also prominent candidates for harboring copious amounts of dirt, so they should always be thoroughly rinsed.
Before consuming any type of fresh leafy green, remove brown pieces or wilty outer layers. Also cut off the base from heads of lettuce. Wash them using cold water only to avoid any accidental cooking.
Use a large pot or bowl filled with water. Swirl leaves in the water, releasing dirt. Place your greens in the strainer of your lettuce spinner and rinse several times, further separating leaves as you go. Once clean, put the strainer back into the spinner and spin until dry. Remove as much moisture as possible.
If you don’t have a salad spinner, use a clean household strainer while rinsing. Then wrap the greens in a clean towel, take it outside, and rotate your arm in a spinning motion to spray the water out. Alternately dab the produce with a towel or paper towels. Store leafy greens wrapped in a towel or paper towel and then inside a sealed plastic bag. Use within a few days.
What about those oranges, lemons, bananas, pineapples, mangos, carrots, potatoes and other produce with a thick or thin rind on the outside—do they need to be washed? Yep. These are easy to wash with water.
Rub the produce with your fingertips or use a produce brush. The goal is to remove bacteria that can transfer onto the food once the peel is cut. After washing, peel or cut for your desired use.
Whether the herbs were collected from your yard or the grocery store, give them a rinse before use. Some herbs such as parsley, basil, and cilantro, can then sit with the roots in a glass of shallow water. Otherwise store your herbs wrapped in paper towels and use them within a few days.
It might seem strange to wash fungi (usually, chefs prefer to just brush them off so they don't get waterlogged) but mushrooms, too, can grow dangerous bacteria. The soft outer coating is best cleaned by gently wiping with a wet cloth. You can also offer them a quick rinse in cold water, but do not submerge them. Pat dry and use immediately.
Soft and sensitive, washing berries can result in early rotting and bacterial growth, especially with ultra-soft types like raspberries. For those, and similar textures like blackberries, marionberries, and strawberries, wash immediately before consumption.
Thicker skinned berries such as blueberries can be washed as soon as you bring them into the house and before storage, but allow them room to dry and breathe once moistened. You can achieve this by letting them drain well or lay them out on a towel. Then package up and put into the refrigerator.
Other Fruits and Veggies
Most other fruits and vegetables that don’t fall into the above categories can be rinsed directly in water. Hardy vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli can be soaked, as can apples. However, it’s not required and can actually leave bacteria on the food that will need rinsed off anyway.
When using bagged produce, be sure to read the packaging. Foods that have been triple washed are ready for consumption. The standards at food processing plants are high so there is a reasonable degree of confidence that the product inside the bag is cleaner than you can get it in your kitchen sink. Many items in bags, however, still need to be washed at home. Wait until you are ready to use your bagged produce before breaking the seal and washing them.
Regardless of what you are washing, be sure you begin with clean hands by washing with soap for at least 20 seconds. Also ensure strainers and towels are clean to avoid bacteria transfer.