Today I went grocery shopping. Ok, I actually go grocery shopping almost every day. But on this particular day the weather was less than pleasant. It was rainy, wet and cold- not surprising since winter is approaching.
As I stood just inside the grocery store doors shaking off my umbrella, I had a few moments to watch the hussle and bussle happening in the produce department (which is usually situated at the front entrance of the store.) What I saw was eye-opening to say the least!
It’s not that I had never seen any of this ever before, but this particular day it really struck a chord with me. Remember I said it was cold and raining? What comes with that kind of weather is just as expected … sniffles … coughs … sneezes … muddy floors … dirty, wet hands … just to name a few things.
So I watched as produce fell to the ground and rolled around the muddy, wet floor and then get set back on the pile (admittedly, I’ve totally done this too.) I watched kids picking up produce and licking it or trying to bite into it before a parent had time to take it away from them. I saw grocery store workers cough, sneeze and rub wet noses with their hands while stocking fresh produce. I also thought about how a number of shoppers were also coming from public transportation where touching handrails, door handles and seat backs are some of the notoriously dirtiest things ever.
Sound disgusting? The solution isn’t to just stop shopping at that particular store; it happens at all of them. We could take an even further step back and trace where that produce came from – who picked it in the field? What truck was it laying in the back of to get to the holding area. How was it stored in the warehouse and who else has handled it before that final produce worker at your local store?
Now, I’m a believer in the idea that we should be eating more dirt in our lives to help our microbiome and immune systems be stronger. Constantly using antibacterial soap and hand wipes are hurting us more than harming us. However, produce coming from the grocery store (versus your garden or farmers market) may not be the place to start with more dirt.
This is the time to clean your produce before you eat it.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommends cleaning all produce before you cut, eat or cook it help prevent the spread of germs in your home, even if the outside portion will not be consumed. Dirt and germs are transferred from the outside skin to the inside edible portions with the knife.
A simple rinse under the faucet will knock off a bit of the debris and dirt, but it isn’t going to remove the pesticides. Unfortunately pesticides are soaked into the flesh. Plus imagine that pesticides are made to withstand strong weather elements like rain and storms so a little faucet water isn’t going to affect it. Try using the Environmental Working Groups Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists which tell you which produce is is loaded with pesticides, so buy organic in those, and which have little to no pesticides so you can buy those as conventional.
So how should you clean your produce?
- A good rinsing under clean water is a better than nothing.
- Go one step better and wash them with a solution. But you don’t need a prodcuce solution in a plastic bottle, save your money and the environment by simply making a bowl of water with a few tablespoons of white vinegar. Toss the produce in a for a few minutes and rinse. It’s super surprising that the vinegar will not flavor the produce- not even delicate little berries.
Pretty simple stuff really. If you need some inspiration, stop and look around the produce department next time you are shopping for a quick reality reminder.
Keep in mind, even if you buy organic produce you should still be washing it. And you should wash your produce just before you use it rather than when you first get home. Also, try using a produce brush on items that aren’t smooth and to help remove wax buildup.
And if it really comes down to it- eating uncleaned veggies is probably more important than not eating them because you can’t/won’t clean them.
Do you typically wash your veggies? If so- what’s your favorite way to clean them? If not- are you going to start?