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Take a look at any healthy diet and you’ll find that eating plentiful fruits and vegetables comes highly recommended. Not only are they loaded with important vitamins and minerals, fruits and vegetables when eaten with their peel also ensure you’re getting enough dietary fibers. But did you know that harmful pesticides and toxins could be lurking in your bowlful of healthy salad? Find out why washing fruits and vegetables is very important, and tips to do it the right way.
Did you know that contaminated vegetables and fruits can also make you sick? Today’s modern farming methods depend largely on chemical fertilizers and pesticides to increase produce yield. And that means, your bowl of salad has had its fair share of being sprayed with plenty of toxins. These chemicals don’t just coat the skin of fruits and vegetables, but are also absorbed by the soil.
Add to that less-than-hygienic conditions during harvesting, packing and transportation, and it becomes all too clear how fruits and vegetables get contaminated with harmful chemicals. Also, many large-scale farmers will coat their fresh produce with additional preservatives so they look good, despite having travelled long distances to where they are actually sold.
Wash your hands with lukewarm water and soap before handling any fresh fruit and vegetables. Or you could easily transfer MORE germs to your salad, instead of cleaning it.
This helps in scrubbing off any remnants of soil clinging to it. This is particularly important for all root vegetables. Even if you are going to peel them before cooking, make sure you rinse them thoroughly. Or else your knife/peeler will pass on contaminants on the skin to the vegetable itself.
Washing fresh whole vegetables thoroughly is very important as these may have more soil and pesticides clinging to them compared to pre-cut vegetables. A good rinse with cold water and rubbing the skin underwater will remove most pesticides and bacteria from the skin, even E.coli.
All leafy green vegetables like spinach, cabbage, mustard, chard, and lettuce need special attention. The best way to clean lettuce or cabbage thoroughly is to remove the central core and outer leaves that have wilted. Separate the leaves and then clean them thoroughly by soaking them in a large bowl of water for 2-5 minutes.
For spinach, mustard greens and arugula, soak and swirl them in the large bowl of water. This removes dirt hiding in between the leaves. Give the leaves a gentle rub, and then lift the leaves out of the water, give them a gentle shake, and put into the colander or salad spinner. Don’t overturn the bowl of dirty water directly into the colander, as larger chunks of dirt and debris may still be caught in between your salad leaves.
Vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli should be cut, and then soaked in water for few minutes, as dust, grime and pesticides can be hiding in the nooks and crannies.
Some fruits and vegetables need a more thorough clean as they are very susceptible to mold, and hence sprayed extensively with pesticides. These include plums, grapes, berries, apples, peaches, pears, okra and eggplant. Wash them thoroughly in cold, clean, running water before eating them.
Mushrooms and berries need a good rinse to clean them but shouldn’t be soaked in water. Mushrooms, in particular, can spoil very quickly when they are soaked. Instead, hold mushrooms under cold, running water and gently rub to remove all dirt, grime and pesticides off the skin. Cooking the mushrooms will take care of any lurking bacteria. Both mushrooms and berries, like strawberries, are best washed right before eating. Once they have been exposed to water, they spoil rather quickly, so wash only as much as you will consume immediately.
Once washed, make sure you dry all fruit and vegetable with clean kitchen towels. It’s always a good idea to wash just before eating or cooking, as storing washed vegetables and fruits in the fridge can make them spoil faster.
This is one of the easiest ways to kill germs sticking to fresh fruits and vegetables. This simple step can remove most of the contact pesticide residues, which normally linger on the surface of vegetables and fruits. Full up a bowl or your kitchen sink with clean water and add a teaspoon of salt. Now allow your fresh fruit or vegetable to soak in this salt solution for few minutes. If you want to clean salad greens effectively, you can add a squeeze of lime with the salt to the water to draw out all dirt, bacteria and pesticides. Now drain well and rinse with cold fresh water for a minute or so before using in any recipe.
Fruits and vegetables with a glossy coating may help preserve them for longer, but this wax coating also seals the contaminants within the fruit or vegetable. Think apples, pears, eggplant and grapes. This means that mere washing with water will not remove all germs in such fresh produce. By cleaning with a vinegar-water solution, the acidic medium will effectively remove wax and bacteria and give your fresh produce a thorough clean.
You can add 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water and soak your fruit or vegetables in this solution for few minutes. Or you can mix vinegar and water in the same ratio in a spray bottle and spray generously over the fruit and vegetable. Allow to stand for 20-30 minutes, and then rinse thoroughly before eating.
We saved the best for last! A very diluted solution of potassium permanganate will effectively remove any pests, bacteria, parasites, worms and pesticide residue from fruits and vegetables, making them safer to eat. Washing fruits and vegetables with a solution of potassium permanganate can greatly help in controlling food-borne disease outbreak. And it’s fairly simple to do too!
Mix just a couple crystals of potassium permanganate in a litre of water so that the solution is just lightly tinted pink. If your solution is dark pink, you’ve added too many potassium permanganate crystals and need to dilute the solution further with water. Soak vegetables and fruits in this solution for 5 to 8 minutes. Then remove and rinse very well with cold running water.
It’s also important to touch upon tips for buying the best fruits and vegetables. Organic fruits and vegetables are often the safest since they are grown using sustainable farming practices. Additionally, choose fresh produce that is free from any visible signs of damage, bruises and mold. If you are buying pre-cut vegetables and fruits to save some time, make sure you only pick those that are refrigerated or placed in a chiller at the supermarket. Avoid buying cut fruits or vegetables from street vendors. These are often stored in less-than-ideal hygienic conditions and could be teaming with bacteria.
What do you think of these tips? Have we missed out anything important? Please share what works for you when it comes to washing fruits and vegetables.