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Fresh Produce? Just Wash It

Last summer we took the kids on a tour of an organic farm, and as we puttered through the fields on a creaky tractor, the workers would hand us fresh-picked carrots, peppers, cilantro, green onions, cucumbers, and other vegetables for munching. “You can eat it without washing it,” the tour guide crowed. “It’s all organic!”

You don’t want us to wash it? Really? Call us a stick-in-the-mud, but as farmers’ market veterans whose stomachs have been destroyed more than once by not-washed foods, that experience left us feeling a little queasy. We can think of at least five words that explain why we wash all of our fresh produce: Cough, sneeze, poop, wipe, stomp. Even if it’s just been picked. Need we explain more?

Of course with organic produce you don’t have the same concerns as you’ve had with produce that has been grown with pesticides. (Though by some estimates, washing only gets rid of about 75 percent of the pesticide content, so getting “regular” produce clean is a whole other issue.) But even if you purchase organic produce, you still want to remember that there are other contaminants to clean off before you or your kids eat it. Remember that your produce is only as clean as the hands of the picker and the seller, the crates or boxes in which it is stored, and/or whatever got dropped on it or washed up on it while it was on the vine.

So as summer – the traditional season of food-borne illnesses – begins, make a new resolution to get your produce as clean as it is healthy. It can be as simple as bringing a bottle (or spray bottle) and a small cloth or paper towel with you to the farmers’ market to clean stuff off before you and your kids start sampling. And when you get home, remember to do a thorough cleaning or soaking job on the produce that has plenty of nooks and crannies (like lettuce or other greens). If you need a quick refresher course on how to get your fruits and veggies clean, the FDA has this quick round-up.

Here’s to eating healthy – and staying healthy – all summer long.

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