It’s midsummer in Minnesota, and despite the weather roller-coaster we’ve been riding, seasonal fruits and vegetables are ripe for the picking. Those of us with gardens are seeing tomatoes plump up and cucumbers and zucchini ripen overnight. Grocery store shoppers are enjoying fresher, more local produce, too. Before you sink your teeth into your favorite summertime fruit or veggie, take a moment to consider your safety. Whether you’re pulling your snack out of the ground or plucking it from a store shelf, all produce has been exposed to soil and water that may carry contaminants. If you’re buying from a store, your produce has been handled by many people and transported by truck or rail to your shopping cart. Hundreds of food products have been recalled by the FDA since the beginning of the year, including many fresh produce foods. The harmful bacteria salmonella and listeria monocytogenes are the primary offenders. How Do You Avoid Illness? Wash, Wash, Wash! To avoid getting sick from your favorite fruits and veggies, you need to get out the soap and water. Here are some tips for washing your produce.
- Only wash produce when you’re ready to eat or cook it. Washing it before you store it may actually increase bacterial growth.
- Wash your hands with warm soap and water before you wash your produce. You do not want to transfer germs on your hands to your food.
- Clean your tools, including knives, cutting boards, and countertops, to avoid germ transfer.
- Wash away bacteria. But bleach and dish detergents are no-no’s because produce can absorb the chemicals. I recommend washing your fruits and veggies with an organic, plant-based rinse.
- Rub or soak vegetables to wash away bacteria. Firm fruits such as melons can be scrubbed with a brush.
- Dry produce with a paper towel or clean cloth. This can also remove bacteria.
- Trim outermost leaves of cabbage or head lettuce.
Produce-Specific Tips Some fruits and vegetables require extra care. Use these tips to make sure you’re washing your produce properly.
- Soft fruits such as peaches and plums: Wash under running water and dry.
- Firm produce such as apples and cucumbers: Wash well to remove any waxy preservative. Peeling is also an option.
- Leafy greens:Discard outer leaves and soak the individual remaining leaves in water before rinsing them under the tap. Some people use vinegar on greens, but that will change the veggie’s taste and texture.
- Grapes, cherries, and berries:Don’t wash these fruits until you eat or use them. Before you store them, get rid of any moldy or spoiled fruit. Wash under running water when ready to eat.
Summer is the time when many of us relish the tasty juiciness of fresh produce. Washing your fruits and vegetables will ensure that you’re safe while doing so. To learn more about keeping produce safe and healthy, contact me!
Here’s to breathing easy and living life to the fullest!
Gene Wood, Life’s Pure Balance