Most of us know that it’s important to wash our produce before eating it but do you know which fruits and vegetables you should give some extra TLC to?
If you’re health conscious like I am, you probably try to buy organic or from a local farmers’ market when you can but there are times you just need to grab those conventional fruits and veggies from a grocery store. It may be due to budget or availability. In any case, if you find yourself buying non-USDA Organic produce, you should know what that means and how to protect yourself and your family from harmful pesticides.
Organic crops. The USDA organic seal verifies that irradiation; sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides, and genetically modified organisms were not used. (Source: http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/NOPOrganicStandards )
Let’s start with the good news: The Clean 15. These are the conventional fruits and vegetables that have been found to have little or no trace of pesticides. It’s always a good idea to clean these with a good rinse or soaking of cold water anyway. You want to be sure to remove any dirt or debris that may have ended up on your food somewhere between the farm and your plate.
And now for the bad news: The Dirty Dozen.These conventional fruits and vegetables have been found to have 47 or more different chemicals. You should absolutely buy organic when buying from this list. If you can’t, make sure you are giving these a good cleaning using a strong stream of water or a mixture of vinegar and water. This will help with your exposure to the chemicals but won’t help with the chemicals that have already seeped into the fruit of vegetable. I still would advise against eating any of The Dirty Dozen when not organic. When the USDA tested these, they used a high-powered wash system before testing, which doesn’t normally happen before these items reach the grocery store. How scary is that?
Methods for washing produce:
- Rinse: Run a steady stream of water and use your hands to rub off any visible dirt you see.
- For Greens: Put in a large bowl of cold water and move the greens around. You’ll notice that dirt will sink to the bottom of the bowl leaving your spinach or kale sparkling! Be sure to give the greens an extra rinse through a colander before consuming.
- Vinegar + Water: (1) For smooth produce, keep a spray bottle of vinegar & water handy. Rinse and spray with your spray bottle and use your fingers to rub off any visible dirt. (2) For rough surfaces: Soak in water bath like the above instructions for greens but use a vinegar & water bath with 1 part vinegar and 3 parts cold water. Rinse in colander.
The USDA site and the Environmental Working Group site are great references on this topic. Below is a list of sources I used for this post.
Please let me know in the comments below if you have an effective way of cleaning your produce that I didn’t mention here and remember to never eat a non-organic apple without washing it again!! :)