IntroductionDuring the cultivation process, pesticides are sprayed on fruits and vegetables to protect them from germs. These pesticides often remain on produce as residues. Pesticides enter into our body when we eat them without washing them properly. A high concentration of pesticides in our body can damage our brain and reproductive organs. It can also cause long-term cancer. Also, newborns are at high risk of undergoing birth defects. From farmers to local vendors, everyone should be educated about harmful results of pesticides. Use of pesticides should be as minimal as possible. On the other hand, organic farming should be given more importance. Be careful in purchasing the produce. If organic ones are available then always choose them. They may be expensive but are free from harmful pesticides. Bacteria are abundantly present in the soil in which produce is cultivated. Bacteria get attached to the produce from the soil itself. Thus, it becomes essential to completely get rid of soil from the produce before we consume them. This will ensure that bacteria which are adhered to the produce get removed easily including E.coli. There are various methods which will help to get rid of harmful pesticides, soil, and dirt from fresh fruits and vegetables. An effective method of cleaning fruits and vegetables is soaking them in water. For the soaking method, water used should be potable or else even, distilled water can be used. Mildly warm water with little salt or turmeric kills many micro-organisms and visible organisms from fruits and vegetables.
Organic produceIt is not true that organic produce does not carry a risk of any bacterial contamination. It is true that organic farming is done in absence of chemical fertilizers, but still, organic fertilizers are used which means that produce is free from harmful chemicals, but still carry a risk of bacteria which is easily found in organic fertilizers and in soil too. If fruits and vegetables do not have tough outer skin, then the risk of contamination increases. Also, a journey of produce from cultivation to our home is quite long. Produce will come in contact with so many sellers and buyers and thus its chances of getting contaminated increases. Thus, go for organic produce, but do not spare it from washing or soaking under water. Even produce which is plucked from one's own garden or farm should be thoroughly washed before eating. Sometimes produce which are freshly bought from stores or plucked from garden or farms look very clean and contamination free. Though they make look like that, but do not go on their looks. Each and every fruit and vegetables before consuming either in raw or in cooked form need to be thoroughly rinsed with water and we need to make sure that no traces of visible dirt or soil is left behind. Pre-packaged produce as their labels read are pre-washed and packed and thus need not be washed. But to remain on the safer side, we can still wash them before consuming.
Keep everything cleanNot only fruits and vegetables should be cleaned properly. Our kitchen area too should be thoroughly cleaned. There is no point in cleaning the produce and chopping them in an unclean environment. Kitchen surfaces should regularly be cleaned with hot soapy water. All the utensils, knives, chopping board should also be cleaned properly. Use different two different sets of chopping boards, knives, and peelers for chopping raw produce and ready to eat produce. If the same set is used for both of them then make sure that they are properly cleaned in between uses. Make sure to keep the kitchen, dining area, refrigerator, chopping boards, knives, peelers etc clean.
Soaking procedurePotable tap water should be used to soak vegetables. Soaking is a very effective method to get rid of all the germs and contaminants from produce. It makes them healthy enough to consume in raw as well as in cooked form. Distilled water can also be used for the same purpose. It is completely free from contamination and thus will prevent the risk of cross-contamination. However, regularly using distilled or bottled water for soaking purpose can be a little heavy on the pocket. Therefore, it is better to use tap water but make sure that it is pure and can be used for drinking purposes. Add 1-2 tsp of salt in the water and soak fruits and vegetables in it for a period of 5-10 minutes. Remove the produce from the salty water and rinse to get rid of salt.
Benefits of the soaking methodSoaking method is good to wash away germs and dirt from produce which have lots of surface area. Grapes because of lots of surface area can be cleaned properly by the soaking method. It is even good for produce which is very soft and if rinsed directly under tap water can become mushy like mulberries, blueberries etc. Certain produce has deep crevices where a large amount of dirt and bacteria get settled. Even when pesticides are sprayed on them, it is their crevices which hold an excess of chemicals. Soaking them will help to get rid of pesticides, germs as well as dirt. Some of these vegetables are broccoli, cauliflower etc.
Adopt right methodIt is always important to make sure that the right method of soaking is adopted. While soaking produce, give them a swirl in the water. Movement or motion that gets created in water helps to thoroughly clean the outer surface of produce. Grapes are extremely difficult to clean under running water as there is always a risk for them to get mushy, especially if water pressure is too heavy. It is even difficult to clean them as they are tightly packed. Soak them in water and rest everything will be taken care of automatically. Water will reach its each and every corner and thorough cleansing will be ensured.
Soaking green leafy vegetablesGreen leafy vegetables carry lots of dirt as their root portions tightly adhere with soil. Just rinsing them under cold water is not going to help in getting rid of all the germs and dirt. First, we need to separate leaves and soak them in a container or colander. Throw away the water and soak them again, if necessary. Once they are clean, wipe them with clean, dry towel. Once they are dry, we can store them for future use. Soaking increases shelf life of green leafy vegetables. If kitchen basin is quite clean then we can soak our produce in the basin itself. If not then a colander or a strainer can be used for the same purpose. Make sure that everything is cleaned properly before and after using.
Commercial washes Nowadays, commercial washes are available in the market for washing produce. They can be used as rinses or sprays or even for soaking purposes, but it is been proved that water alone is sufficient to do the trick and thus there is no need to spend money on all these products. Only care that we need to take is that water used for soaking purpose is a potable one. Blanching or soaking in warm water is an effective method to get rid of harmful pesticides and soil. It also tends to soften vegetables which taste better if used in salad recipes. If produce is cleaned with soaps, detergents, bleaches and other cleaning agents then toxic chemicals present in them can leave residues on the produce and will alter the original flavour. Rinsing under plain water or using sprays is enough and there is no need to use commercially available sprays for the same purpose.
ConclusionSoaking fruits and vegetables in water for a period of 5-10 minutes help to get rid of harmful pesticides and germs. Soil which is mainly attached to green leafy vegetables and root vegetables get removed easily. The soil is the main carrier of bacteria causing foodborne diseases. Soaking enables us to get rid of soil, germs and toxic chemicals. We need to swish our freshly bought produce in water so that motion so created in water enables it to reach each and every corner of produce and clean it properly. Soaking in warm water which is also known as blanching is a good method to clean fruits and vegetables. Adding 1-2 tsp of salt or turmeric will further kill any existing germs or organisms present in the produce. Water used for soaking should be clean enough to prevent cross-contamination. Containers or basin in which soaking is done should also be equally clean. Soaking method is particularly useful to clean those fruits and vegetables which have deep crevices, soft skin, the ones which are tightly packed and the ones which have large surface areas. Adopt this easy method which neither requires lots of ingredients nor requires extra efforts to clean vegetables and fruits. It is a very easy, simple, yet effective method to clean produce. Know about more such methods by going through How to clean fruits and vegetables by rinsing method and How to clean fruits and vegetables in vinegar.
The author has mentioned about the simple ways in which we can ensure that the fruits and vegetables are safe for us. Now many varieties of apples, imported oranges and lemons are waxed so much that they are shiny. Wax is not good to be consumed, so many parents just peel off the skin and discard it. Wax can be removed by using warm water to wash or a commercial solution. A simple method would be to use vinegar or lemon juice with a little baking soda to get rid of the wax.
Apart from the pesticides, there are other contaminants. If you see the small vegetable sellers cleaning green leafy vegetables, it is appalling. The are few videos of how they just wash it near a small leaking pipe or stream of water or even dirty water. Many of these sellers sprinkle water on their produce or wipe down expensive fruits with a moist cloth that looks like the one after we clean our kitchens.
A word of caution about 'organic fruits and vegetables'- we tend to be a little complacent when we hear this label and automatically equate it to good clean fruits and vegetables. However, these should be washed and cleaned as these need not be as organic as we think; it may just be a new label unless we trust the source or the vendor.
The water filters we have at our home often have a Reverse Osmosis tag on it. The RO system roughly wastes 3 litres for 1 litre of drinking water. Can this be used for washing vegetables?