How to Wash Vegetables and Fruits
Many vegetables and fruits arrive at our grocery stores with labels indicating they have already been washed. Others have no such label. Some produce items are coated with a protective wax to slow the ripening process. While some vegetables and fruits may have been washed, there is no guarantee of how well they were washed nor that pesticides and bacteria were removed from them. Wax coated vegetables and fruits tend to store pesticides and bacteria beneath the wax and on top of the skin. This, of course, creates risk for disease.
Washing fruits and vegetables is another step to be taken in preparing a meal. But, doing so can remove both harmful chemicals and bacteria from your diet. Take a few moments and learn why and how to wash your vegetables and fruits.
Toxic Fruits and Vegetables?
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Pesticides on Vegetables and Fruits
By definition a pesticide is any chemical designed to destroy plant, fungal or animal pests. It is common agricultural practice to treat vegetables and fruits with pesticides while they are growing to ensure a good crop. But, how much of that pesticide remains on our fruits and vegetables when we eat them?
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an organization that advocates for chemical free fruits and vegetables and being sure that the public is fully educated about the use of pesticides and chemicals in agriculture. According to the EWG, pesticides are found on the outside of over 90% of vegetables and fruits and many are found inside the fruit as well. That means that simply peeling fruits and vegetables will not completely rid them of toxic chemicals.
Annually, the EWG establishes the Dirty Dozen list which identifies the top 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables on the market. The 2013 list includes the following:
- cherry tomatoes;
- hot peppers;
- kale; and,
- summer squash.
Pesticides have been linked to nervous system toxicity, various cancers, birth defects, and learning disabilities in children. So, we all know we need to eat our vegetables and fruits. But how can we eat them safely? The experts recommend washing our vegetables and fruits with something more than water before we eat them. While we may not be able to remove all of the pesticides we will remove a good portion of them and make our food much safer to eat.
Wax on Fruits and Vegetables
Both organic and non-organic fruits and vegetables may be coated with wax to slow the ripening process, protect the skin during shipping and to decrease moisture loss. Natural wax products are better for use on food and include carnauba wax (from the carnauba palm tree), beeswax and shellac (from the lac beetle). Certified organic fruits and vegetables may be coated with these natural waxes.
Paraffin wax is petroleum based and is typically used for making candles. You may be surprised to find it on the outside of your sweet potatoes, coconuts and breadfruit. Some products like ethyl alcohol, ethanol and milk casein may be added to even natural wax sources.
Some non-organic fruits and vegetables that are routinely waxed include:
- bell peppers;
- limes; and,
Wax on the outside of any fruit or vegetable can trap pesticides and bacteria between the wax and the skin. Both can be transferred to the inner part of your vegetable or fruit when cutting or slicing. Even peeling the wax coated skin can cause pesticides and bacteria from the skin to enter the meat of your product.
How to Wash Fruit and Vegetables with Vinegar
Fruit and vegetables can be cleaned easily at home with vinegar and water. Vinegar is an effective cleaning agent because the acid it contains kills the majority of bacteria on the surface of fruits and vegetables. It also helps to dissolve the wax coating on the outside of your produce.
Items needed to clean your fruits and vegetables include:
- spray bottle;
- large bowl or basin; and,
- paper towels.
To clean hard skinned fruits and vegetables, use a spray bottle. Combine 1 part vinegar with 1 part water in the spray bottle. Completely cover the fruit with the vinegar and water mist. Gently clean the entire skin of the fruit with your vegetable brush. Rinse with clean fresh water. Dry with paper towels.
To clean soft skinned fruits and vegetables, combine 1 part vinegar with 1 part water in a large bowl or basin. Soak your fruits and vegetables for 2 minutes. Scrub them gently if needed with a vegetable brush. Rinse with clean fresh water. Dry with paper towels.
Leafy greens, celery, broccoli, and cauliflower should be soaked in a large basin of the vinegar and water. After soaking for 2 minutes, rinse with clean fresh water. Dry with paper towels.