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Your Guide to Cleaning the Rainbow: How to Wash Fruits and Veggies

Red and Green Peppers

Fruits and vegetables are a healthy, colorful addition to your plate. They add fiber, antioxidants, volume, vitamins and minerals to your meals. Grocery stores have a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, but with this, come bacteria from the water and soil that these products came from. Not to mention that it’s cold season and someone probably just sneezed in their hand before they squeezed that avocado . . . Yep, maybe that one went too far. . . But produce can also become contaminated during storage and preparation. It is important to know how to wash, store, and prepare your produce to reduce your risk of foodborne illness.

When you are choosing produce, look for products with little to no bruising/damage. For items that are precut or bagged, make sure that it is in the refrigerated section or over ice. Perishable produce should be kept at temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. And while you finish your shopping, keep produce separate from meat. Have you ever experienced a leaky package of chicken or hamburger? You definitely don’t want to marinade your cucumbers in that! Keep them apart in the cart, when bagging, and when storing them at home.

Wash cutting boards and utensils with soap and hot water between preparing raw meat and vegetables. The best way is to have two separate cutting boards or prepare your raw veggies first before cutting meat on the same board. If meat and produce are not cut on separate boards/sides of the cutting board, cross contamination may occur which means you are likely ingesting raw meat via your lovely produce. Again, raw meat marinade is NOT a new health trend!

To wash produce properly, first start by washing your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water. If there is any damage to the vegetable or fruit, make sure you use a sharp knife to remove these spots. Did you know that you should wash fruits and veggies before peeling them? That’s because the bacteria that reside on the outside of the item (spaghetti squash for instance) will get transferred to the inside as you make the cut. To clean the outside, just rinse your produce under running water while gently rubbing it to remove contaminants. For produce with a rough texture such as broccoli, soak it for a minute or two in cold water. For firmer surfaces, use a vegetable brush. When washing salad greens, remove the root (from greens like butterhead and romaine) and separate the leaves and soak them in cold water. For smaller greens such as spinach, place them in a bowl and run them under cold water, draining them in a colander.

It is important not to use soap or detergents on your produce.  You only need cold water, or if you prefer, a produce wash/spray.  Rubbing the surface of the produce is more beneficial in cleaning the item than the water temperature used. Happy veggie scrubbing!