Want to know the first thing I do after I get all my groceries put away each week?
Take a nap. (Umm, just kidding. I’d like to on some days after a long shopping trip with three little kids!)
Actually, the first thing I try to do when I get done putting away groceries is to clean my produce. I’ve found that if I spend about 10 minutes prepping my fruits and veggies for the week, I waste less food and eat more fruits and vegetables throughout the week.
This is a guest post from Rachel of Thriving Home blog.
Save Time and Money with Natural Produce Wash Techniques
I honestly think the method I’ll share with you of cleaning my produce is one of the best changes I’ve made in my kitchen! I can’t wait to tell you more. In this post, I will explore
- Why we should clean our produce (i.e. Is it really even necessary?)
- The most effective, natural way to clean produce
- How this produce-cleaning method saves money
Ready to get some awesomely clean produce and save some money? Nice. Here we go then.
Related: Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen List
Why Should I Clean My Produce?
I’m not trying to freak you out too much, I promise. But, I think it is worth considering for just a moment why we need to clean the lovely produce we purchase.
1 – Think about where your produce came from–the ground.
You might ascribe to the “God made dirt and dirt don’t hurt” philosophy, but you may want to rethink that notion when it comes to dirt that may be near cattle or other animals that poop. Animal run-off can make it into the ground and onto the plants we eat, and that can be really dangerous (E. Coli, for example). Unless we grow it ourselves, we likely don’t know the conditions of the farm where our produce was grown.
2 – Think about how many hands have touched your produce so far.
The person who picked it, someone in some warehouse or factory who sorted it, the produce guy at your grocery story, little kids who come by in their shopping cart, etc. The point is many people who may have nasty germs to share have touched your apple or lettuce.
3 – Think about the pesticides that are on your produce.
Unless you buy organic produce, there is a high likelihood that your fruit or vegetables are still coated in the chemicals that repelled or killed bugs and mold. And, those my friends, are NOT a good idea to ingest.
So, is your fruit or vegetable contaminated with bacteria, viruses, and/or nasty pesticides? The answer is probably yes to one or more of these.
Bottom line: We need to wash our fruit and vegetables before eating them or serving them!
Why Should I Even Eat Fruits and Vegetables If They’re So Dirty?
Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water, ok? And let’s not get too OCD about all this.
Fruits and vegetables are essential for our good health, as I wrote about in this post. In fact, the Environmental Working Group who publishes the Dirty Dozen list assures us, “The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure.” Do not give up eating fruits and vegetables to avoid contaminants.
Instead, let’s think about how we can eat lots of CLEAN produce.
How Can I Clean My Produce Effectively and Safely?
I am excited to share an effective, all-natural, and easy method of cleaning produce which a Cook’s Illustrated’s study and a report from NY Times confirmed works! This method removes more pesticides from and kills more germs on our produce than a store-bought veggie wash, soap and water rinse, or just a water rinse. In fact, the NY Times article reported that the following method “reduced bacteria by 90 percent and viruses by about 95 percent.”
The main idea and recipe is this: Use a combination of white vinegar and water to soak or rinse your produce. One study says use 3 parts water to 1 part vinegar. Another said use 10 parts water to 1 part vinegar. I usually use somewhere between those two recommendations.
You have two options for using the vinegar/water cleaning method:
- Option 1: You can make a spray bottle up with your vinegar and water mixture, spray your produce and then rinse it with water for at least 30 seconds.
- Option 2: You can do what I do, which I find easier since I can do big batches at once. I simply soak my produce in my water/vinegar concoction for about 2+ minutes and then rinse them well under water for 30+ seconds. If it is a fruit or vegetables that I can rub, like an apple or pepper, I do that too, since the studies showed that the action of rubbing also helps remove grime.
Some of the produce I’ve effectively used this cleaning method on have been broccoli, romaine lettuce, bell peppers, apples, berries, and grapes.
Here are a few samples of what I’ve soaked lately:
Example #1: Apples
I soaked all the apples we picked at a local orchard in my clean sink. I stirred them around and rubbed them with my hands. After they soaked for about 10-15 minutes, I rinsed them with water, dried them on the counter, and stored them in the fruit drawer in the fridge. They have lasted a long time, and I can eat one straight from the fridge anytime.
Example #2: Grapes
Again, I just soaked for several minutes, stirring them around some, and then rinsed them well under running water in a colander.
Now, you MUST see the before and after shots of the vinegar/water solution I used to clean my grapes.
BEFORE CLEANING GRAPES:
AFTER CLEANING GRAPES:
Can you believe how much nastiness comes off the grapes? These were conventional, domestic grapes so I’m sure a lot of that is pesticides as well as just filth. The grapes look shiny and crisp and taste delicious after they are cleaned this way!
Example #3: Raspberries
This is perhaps my favorite new find. Maybe you’ve heard to only wash your berries right before you eat them, so they last longer. Well, that has never worked for me. I had almost given up on buying my husband’s favorite fruit–raspberries. It seemed like they were mushy and moldy within 24 hours of purchasing them. But, ah-ha! I found a way to make them last and get them clean.
Cleaning raspberries (or any berries) using the vinegar/water soak can inhibit mold growth and make them last MUCH longer in the fridge. It works so much better than just rinsing them right before eating.
To wash them, I soak the berries in the vinegar/water solution for a few minutes and then gently rinse them in a colander, being very gentle so as not to smash them.
I’ve found that another key to helping berries last longer is to store them like this…
Here’s exactly how I store my berries so they last longer:
- After washing your berries using the method above, set your berries out on a towel to dry on the counter.
- Next, place a paper towel or towel at the bottom of a container that has a fitted lid.
- Spread the berries out in one layer, making sure they aren’t stacked on one another.
- Place another paper towel on top of the berries
- If you have more berries, you can set even more on top of this paper towel to make a second layer. But, you’ll need to top the second layer with another paper towel.
- Put on the lid.
- Store them in the fridge and they last for days and days this way!
Can Cleaning Produce This Way Save Money?
Yes! This trick has actually saved me money, for four reasons.
1) Now that I can clean my produce effectively, I feel a little better about buying conventional produce over organic at times.
Although I’m a big believer in buying organic produce when possible, especially those from the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list, it can be SO expensive!!! We LOVE strawberries, blueberries, and so many other kinds of produce that are some of the “dirtiest” and cost an arm and a leg when grown organically. So, now that I can reduce the chemicals and bacteria by cleaning them really well, I buy conventionally grown for our favorites that we can’t afford organically.
2) My produce lasts longer, especially the berries.
By using vinegar/water soak and storing them between paper towels in a container in the fridge, as I mentioned above, the berries last much longer. No more throwing away of moldy raspberries or strawberries after 24 hours in my fridge.
3) I am much more likely to eat my clean produce, instead of letting it go bad.
When it’s clean and within sight in my fridge, I am much more likely to throw together a salad with lunch, eat an apple for a snack, or munch on grapes with my breakfast. I rarely have produce go bad anymore.
4) Vinegar is so cheap–much cheaper than any Fruit and Veggie Wash you might buy at the store.
Plus, those store-bought washes are not proven to be any more effective than water and rubbing according to Cooks Illustrated. Vinegar, however, is more effective than water!
More Tips and Some Favorite Recipes
If you liked this article, you may be interested in a few other simple kitchen tricks I’ve learned:
Or you may enjoy a few of our simple, real food recipes from our healthy, kid-friendly Recipe Index such as:
I often find very helpful suggestions in the comments section on KS. So, I want to be sure to ask for your suggestions…
Do you have any all-natural kitchen tips to share?
Rachel is a stay-at-home mom of three young kids and part-time Family Events Director at her church. She also co-authors the blog Thriving Home, where she shares healthy kid-friendly recipes, parenting resources and encouragement for moms, and tips for natural living. Find out more about Thriving Home here or you can follow them via their Facebook page or weekly email update.