Is water good enough?

Fresh vegetables imageI wonder when cleaning lettuce for salad, broccoli before cooking or even just an apple for a snack, is water good enough? All of the government and produce trade sites stress that washing in lots of fresh water is all that is necessary to remove the dirt, possible pesticide residue and bacteria.

For items with plenty of nooks and crannies like cauliflower, broccoli or leafy greens, a little extra work is needed by soaking in fresh water for several minutes and then rinsing well. A salad spinner can be a great tool to help to remove excess moisture when washing greens. Scrubbing with a clean produce brush and drying with paper towels also helps to remove surface impurities.

Purchasing a commercial produce wash is often tempting, but they are they worth the money? Several research projects have looked at these costly items and found them to be “just as effective” as or only “slightly better” than washing with just plain water.

If you’d really feel better adding something to the wash water mix 1/3 to 1/2 cup of white vinegar with every cup of water. Studies show that vinegar helps reduce bacterial contamination, but it may also affect the texture and taste of the product, so rinse quickly and well.

To preserve its quality, wash the produce just before preparation—not when you bring it home. Washing before storage will cause produce to spoil faster.

Cleaning produce is an activity that kids can do. It is a fun project to do together and you can teach them about food safety. Learn more here:
http://www.fightbac.org/for-kids/kids-pages

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

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updated on 10-27-2020