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It’s always important to make sure the food that you bring into your house is safe. You probably already know how to keep meat and poultry at its best (never leave raw hamburger meat out, for instance). But when it comes to fresh produce, especially the stuff you want to eat raw (and use in your summer salad recipes), what do you do?
So many questions: How do you wash produce? Is water enough? Do you need to buy a special fruit or veggie spray from the grocery store? And what about if you’re going to peel a cucumber or a potato for a simple potato recipe? Do you need to wash those, too?
It can all be so confusing. Luckily, we’ve got the answers.
According to the FDA (you know, the folks who ruined eating raw cookie dough for all of us), produce washes aren’t necessary. Peter Cassell, an FDA employee from the office of media affairs told the Huffington Post that “using fruit/vegetable washes or dish soaps may result in residue left on the produce and can also change the flavor.” In fact, on their site, the FDA has seven specific recommendations for getting fruit and vegetables clean:
- Wash your hands. Use soap and scrub those hands for 20 seconds both before and after handling fresh produce.
- Wash all produce. Even if you’re going to peel them, you want to rinse your veggies. That keeps dirt and bacteria from transferring onto your knife or cutting board. (This includes vegetables with rinds and skins, like avocados and melons.)
- Plain water will suffice. You don’t need to use soap, vinegar, produce wash or anything else. In fact, in a study by the University of Maine, water performed just as well as produce wash at removing bacteria and fungi, without leaving a residue.
- But you need to rub. To make sure the veggies are clean, gently rub them with your fingers. For firm fruits and veggies such as potatoes, melons, cucumbers, etc., you can use a clean vegetable brush (not the one you use for your dishes).
- Dry the produce. Use a clean cloth or paper towel, and get all the moisture off before storing or cooking. This will further reduce any bacteria.
- Remove leaves. For items like cabbage, you can remove the outermost leaves.
- Cut away visible damage. This may seem like common sense, but the FDA also recommends cutting away any visible damage or bruising before preparing or eating your fruit as well.
Finally, here’s an old tip from the New York Times, for cleaning very soft fruit, specifically berries, that you might not want to rub: Put them in a hot bath. Essentially, you can put blueberries, strawberries, and the like in 140°F water for about 30 seconds, and it will kill any mold or bacteria on the skins without affecting the taste or the quality of the fruit. Simply dry it off and store it when you’re done. Not only will it be clean, but it'll last a lot longer in the fridge, as well!