Eating lots of fresh produce is one of the best ways to support and maintain a healthy lifestyle. But, if you’re not cleaning vegetables and fruits before you eat them, you can actually compromise your health focus.
Think of how many avocados you squeeze or honeydews you knock on before you take one home. Now think of all the other hands that have done the same in your local produce department or farmer’s market. That’s a lot of hands…and that’s only at the market! It doesn’t account for the farming and distribution, shipping and handling, and anything else that’s come in contact with your produce. Gross, right?
On top of picking and storing your produce properly, you need to have an effective cleaning method. Whether you thoroughly scrub your fruits and veggies under running water or use a store-bought vegetable cleaner, you need to make sure you’re getting rid of any bad stuff. That way, you can safely enjoy the good stuff – like the first bite into a fresh-picked apple or the subtle sweetness of a baked yam.
What happens if you don't wash your produce?
The obvious answer is that you will be exposed to all of the germs that live and grow on your fruits and vegetables and you can even spread them. Some of these are benign, but some can make you really sick! Some food-borne illnesses like listeria and e. Coli won’t go away with just washing. But norovirus and other contaminants can be tackled by giving your veggies a rinse.
If you don’t wash your fruits and vegetables, you’re not just making yourself susceptible to food poisoning, illness, and other people’s sneezes and coughs. You’re also inviting dirt, insects, and other elements of the earth that may be left behind into your meal.
How To Wash Vegetables
Bet you’re thinking, “No problem, I’ll just wash everything when I get home from the grocery store to ensure I take care of it early.” Right?
Pre-washing doesn’t make any vegetable cleaner. In fact, this may cause them to rot faster (and breed more yucky stuff you don’t want to be eating!) Here are some how to wash vegetables tips to ensure your produce stays fresh and clean for your meals and snacks.
1. Wash Your Hands
The first step in cleaning vegetables is making sure the hands that are cleaning them don’t have any unwanted germs either. Thoroughly wash and dry your hands before handling your produce.
2. Clear the Area
If you have dirty dishes cluttering your sink, you may expose your produce to more germs. Make sure the sink and countertops are free of any messes before you get to work on washing your fruits and vegetables. Use a gentle all-purpose cleaner to fully clean the countertops and sink.
3. Wait Until You’re Ready to Cook or Eat
As mentioned before, pre-washing is not your friend. Wash your vegetables shortly before you’re going to consume them. This makes sure they’re at their cleanest and don’t collect germs while they wait to be used.
4. Use Cool Water
It may seem like water is water and this is not a big deal, but the temperature is important. Cool water is most effective for cleaning vegetables and fruits. Hot water encourages the germy microorganisms to enter your produce, especially if it started out cold from sitting in your fridge. Additionally, it’s a good idea to rinse most fruits and vegetables under running water. This gets everything you don’t want off the surface and down the drain more effectively.
If the fruit or vegetable you’re cleaning has a thick or hard exterior, like a potato or an apple, it’s a good idea to scrub the outside with a small brush. It’s also recommended to do this to fruits and vegetables where you don’t consume the exterior, like a kiwi, lemon, or onion. It’s an extra precaution to keep your vegetables cleaner, but worth it to eliminate any germs you might come into contact with while handling.
You can also massage the produce with your fingers under the water to make each fruit and vegetable cleaner. This is especially helpful for more fragile produce items like broccoli, which would likely fall apart from a good scrubbing.
6. Try a Gentle Vegetable Cleaner
You can also try using a vegetable cleaner like the Better Life biodegradable and organic produce wash. It aids in removing film, wax, and other residues. Never use a harsh cleaner like bleach or a disinfectant. They are full of toxic chemicals that are not safe for consumption.
How To Wash Leafy Vegetables
If you’re wanting to know how to wash leafy vegetables, the process is a little different. Produce like spinach, kale, lettuce, and brussels sprouts can trap dirt inside and need extra love to shake away pesky germs and contaminants. Use this list to learn how to wash leafy vegetables like a produce-cleaning pro.
1. Set Up Your Cleaning Station
Have everything ready and available so you can quickly clean your leafy greens. You’re going to need a clean countertop and sink, a bowl, and a colander.
2. Remove Any Outer Layers
Especially for vegetables like brussels sprouts and cabbage, removing the outer layers can help eliminate exposure to bacteria and dirt.
3. Submerge in Cool Water
Fill up your bowl with cool water and fully submerge your vegetables. You only have to leave them in for a couple of minutes – leaving them in the bowl longer doesn’t make them any cleaner.
Take your vegetables out of the water bath and place them in the colander you set up in the sink. This will help remove trapped water and growing bacteria inside your leafy greens. You can even give your veggies a spritz or two of produce wash as you remove the excess water.
5. Give Them a Final Rinse
It’s a good idea to do one last rinse before digging in or cooking up your veggies. That way, any lingering dirt or germs have a chance to get rinsed off.
How Long Should You Wash Vegetables?
How long you wash vegetables depends on what you’re cleaning. A good rule of thumb is to think about the surface of whatever fruit or vegetable you are trying to consume.
A plum or a tomato, for instance, has a smooth, non-porous exterior. A rinse for 30 seconds is a sufficient amount of time. Leafy greens, cantaloupes, and vegetables that are porous or have more places for bacteria to grow and hide require a few more minutes and, sometimes, even extra scrubbing.
If you’re concerned, just remove the skin altogether after washing! When you peel your fruits and veggies, you eliminate the possibility of surface contamination or germs.
Does washing vegetables get rid of pesticides?
Cleaning vegetables and fruits reduces pesticides significantly from the surface of your produce. While washing doesn’t get rid of them fully, it’s as effective of a method you can probably get. Besides, it’s better than not washing at all.
Are frozen fruits and vegetables washed?
It depends on what food it is and what the directions say. Frozen fruit is safe to eat without washing beforehand. Frozen vegetables vary, so it’s always best to check the package. If the instructions mention washing, definitely take the time to do so.
Do you have to wash vegetables before cooking?
Cooking is one of the most effective ways to eliminate bacteria growing on your produce. It’s still worth giving your vegetables a good scrub, but it’s not as important as if you were eating them raw.
How To Dry Vegetables After Washing
Believe it or not, how you dry your vegetables is just as important as cleaning them. Here are some tips on how to dry vegetables after washing the proper way so your washing efforts don’t go to waste!
1. Set Up Paper Towels or a Clean Dish Towel
Use your clean counter space or a clean baking rack and lay the towels on top. Then, place your clean produce on the towels to air dry.
2. Pat or Blot
You can use another towel to try and soak up excess water. Water can invite more bacteria so it’s very important to make sure your vegetables and fruits are thoroughly dry.
3. Try a Salad Spinner
If you don’t know what a salad spinner is, it’s a spinning contraption that helps dry your vegetables faster. When your veggies are inside the salad spinner, the spinning motion helps to shake off and remove any excess water quickly. They come in very handy for those leafy greens you just learned how to wash properly!
Conclusion About How to Wash Vegetables
Take these tips for picking out produce with you to the store and, once you’re home, get those fruits and vegetables fully clean. Wash and dry them thoroughly using the how to wash vegetables steps above before consuming a healthy meal or snack. You can even get your kids involved in the cleaning! In fact, you can keep your whole home free and clear of germs and bacteria with natural, plant-derived Better Life products. Happy cleaning!
Contributing Writer: Charlotte Seley