IntroductionFresh fruits and vegetables form a major portion of a healthy diet. If we want to remain healthy then we need to consume varieties of fruits and vegetables on daily basis. However, before consuming them, we need to wash them properly to protect ourselves from the harmful pesticides and insecticides sprayed on them. In recent years, there has been a rapid rise in the number of food borne outbreaks related to fruits and vegetables. Consuming contaminated produce can also result in food poisoning and other food borne diseases. To protect ourselves from sickness and chemical contamination, we need to make sure that we clean produce before we consume them.
Wash handsNot only is it important to get rid of pesticides and dirt from fresh produce, we also need to take care that we do not incorporate dirt or germs in them from our side. For this reason, we need to properly wash our hands with warm water and soap, preferably antiseptic soaps, before handling fresh produce. Once they are cleaned thoroughly, we need to once again clean our hands so that our hands get rid of all the germs, dirt, and pesticides which might have settled when we were cleaning produce. Washing hands before and after rinsing vegetables will thereby prevent cross-contamination.
Rinsing method to clean produceRinsing fresh produce under water is the most effective method of cleaning them. It is simple as well as effective for all sorts of produce. There are certain fruits and vegetables which will require more cleaning when compared with other produce. However, the cleaning process for such produce also starts with rinsing with water. Getting rid of soil from loose produce is more important as more amount of soil is adhered to them.
Rinsing before and after peelingWe sometimes feel that since we are going to peel off the skin of fruits and vegetables, we need not go through the trouble of rinsing them under water. Irrespective of whether we are peeling the skin or not, we need to clean each fruit and vegetable properly with water before consuming them. If the skin produce is peeled without cleaning then there is always a risk that bacteria or other germ contamination may enter from outside of the raw produce to the inner portion. Always rinse and clean produce both before and after peeling skin. Bruises or cuts present in produce can result in bacterial infiltration. This is the reason that they need to be rinsed again with potable water even after peeling.
Packaged produceWe sometimes bring home packaged produce which is ready to eat. Labels may read washed, double washed or triple washed and that means that we need not wash them. There is no soil attached to them and thus there is no or minimal chance of such produce being infiltrated with germs and dirt. We can consume them directly. Store raw produce and packaged produce separately. Any bruised area or cuts present on the surface of produce should be removed. This will prevent entry of germs from a bruised area into the inner portion of the produce.
Right method of rinsingFruits and vegetables need to be washed and need to be washed in a right way. 2% salt water can get rid of most of the adhered pesticides from the produce. If produce is washed under tap running water then we can get rid of almost 75-80% of pesticides. There is no need to wash them with any detergents, soaps or store-bought washes. Rub fingers on produce and try to remove as much visible dirt and contamination from them as possible under running tap water. There are certain fruits and vegetables which can carry more residues of pesticides sprayed on them inside their crevices. Thus, while washing them make sure to properly clean crevices of such produce. Some of such produce which can hold pesticides are tomatoes, brinjal, peaches, mangoes, grapes etc. Mushrooms, on the other hand, can become soggy if rinsed under water for too long or if soaked in water. Rinse them quickly under a gentle spray of water or wipe them with damp clean cloth or a paper towel. Quickly dry them.
Right time to wash produceFruits and vegetables carry a natural protective covering around them. If we wash all of our stores bought produce at once and then store them then they may spoil early. Wash them as and when required. Berries can grow mold if they are rinsed with water beforehand and stored in a refrigerator. Green leafy vegetables, on the other hand, can be washed early and used later. Before washing, leafy vegetables make sure to get rid of their outer leaves first. Any discolored leaves need to be thrown away. Wash them under running tap water. Examples of leafy vegetables are lettuce and cabbage.
Wash under clean waterIf water is safe to drink, only then there is a point of using it to clean our freshly store-bought produce. If water itself is unclean then there is no point in rinsing our vegetables or fruits in them as unsafe and unclean water may introduce more amounts of bacteria and dirt on the surface of rinsed produce. Warm water can be used for cleaning purpose, especially if the produce which is rinsed has to be cooked later.
Use a colander for rinsing produceA colander filled with produce should be kept under running water. It eases the method of cleaning, particularly if we need to wash a number of fruits and vegetables. Produce like grapes, berries, beans, green peas, spinach, coriander leaves, fenugreek leaves, other green leafy vegetables etc can be easily cleaned in a colander.
Gentle washingCertain produce cannot be washed vigorously and if done can become mushy and may even get crushed. Such produce like raspberries, strawberries etc should be cleaned separately by putting them in a colander. Let them run under a gentle spray of water. Rub them gently with fingers and not by any scrub brush. Raspberries if washed under running water can fall apart and thus it is better to clean them with spray bottles which are filled with potable water. Thus, clean them only when needed.
Vigorous washingVegetable brushes and scrubs are easily available which help to get rid of germs usually found in vegetables which are grown in soil. These germs are very difficult to get rid of. Just rinsing them under water is not going to be of any help. Make use of these vegetable brushes or scrubs to scrub vegetables which have a hard skin. This method can be used to clean all those produce which have hard skin like cucumbers, watermelons, potatoes, carrots, radish etc. Just make sure that scrub brushes which we use are clean. Produce needs to be scrubbed as much as it can withstand. Abrasion that is created with vegetable brushes can get rid of the large number of pesticides, soil, and germs.
Cleaning fruits and vegetables when outsideSometimes we cannot eat produce when we are outside our homes. To solve this, we can carry spray bottles with us and clean produce as and when necessary and dry them with paper towels. In this way, we can consume our favorite fruits and vegetables free from the risk of bacterial contamination and pesticides even when we are outside our homes.
Cleaning green leafy vegetablesGreen leafy vegetables need to be cleaned in a colander. Separate each leaf and wash all of them under cold running water. If their root ends are carrying a large amount of soil then separate root portions by cutting them with a knife and discard them. Drain the leaves properly once they are cleaned using a clean strainer. Dry them with the help of a clean towel or using a salad spinner. After every use, make sure to clean salad spinner, colander, strainer etc with warm soapy water.
Careful rinsingRinsing produce blindly is of no use. Inspect them properly after rinsing them under water to check whether it is free of all the small bugs and dirt or not. If anything is stuck on them then re-wash them. Only rinsing or washing with clean water is not sufficient. Once produce is cleaned properly, they need to be dried. Make use of paper towels or clean cloth. This method helps to get rid of any lingering germ or bacteria from the produce.
ConclusionMake sure that produce is soil and germ-free. Soil can cause lots of damage and settle in our kidneys or liver as stones. Moreover, there is always a risk that soil can carry bacteria which can enter inside a produce in many ways. Bacteria are present in the soil, organic fertilizers and even present in droppings of birds and other animals that go into the farms where cultivation is taking place. Even poor hygiene in farm workers can cause contamination. Thus, make sure to get rid of all the soil before consuming fruits or vegetables in any manner. Properly rinse produce using right technique under safe, drinking water. Different produce needs different types of rinsing and cleaning methods. To know more about such techniques, go through How to clean fruits and vegetables by soaking method and How to clean fruits and vegetables in vinegar.
Good article about cleaning fruits and vegetables by rinsing method. I've seen some people and maids at homes who keep the tap open at full speed to while washing fruits and vegetables. Surely we can do the same with the tap half open to avoid wastage of water. What we have done is, that for one tap in the kitchen, we have fitted a plastic tap shower that basically sends out a shower of water, this is at a higher force than the regular tap water and helps in quick rinsing of the visible dirt particles.
While travelling or during trips, it is difficult to wash fruits and vegetable, so what we do for children is just to wet a tissue and add a couple of drops of hand sanitizer and give the fruits a wipe and then clean it with a plain tissue after making it wet with a little bottled water.
People often buy cut jackfruit from nearby vendors; if you observe how they cut it - sitting down on the footpath with some paper spread out, unwashed hands with some oil and a small dirty cloth. One person keeps cutting the individual pulp/fruit, while the other just arranges it neatly. It is better to wash them once we bring them home, rather than just eat them thinking that they look clean.