When you’re craving a fresh salad, there’s nothing more delicious than adding a juicy apple or bursting greens and vegetables. The taste of these delights also promises nourishment to our bodies. 

But before savoring these harvests, we must know that our fruits and vegetables are fresh and safe. The simple practice of washing and preparing our produce plays a vital role. 

This step should be revised to avoid introducing us to potential risks. This could be from pesticides, harmful microbes, and contamination. 

It’s time to protect our health and elevate the joy of consuming produce in its best form. Here’s an article to help you explore the world of fresh produce. 

What is Produce Contamination?

When you walk through the produce section of your local grocery store or perhaps your favorite farmer’s market, the vibrant colors of fresh fruits and vegetables will definitely attract you.

Imagine fueling your body with fresh strawberries or that crisp head of lettuce. Have you ever thought of the unseen contaminants it may carry?

Produce contamination refers to harmful substances on plant products. Once eaten, it can come with unwanted risks. 

Understanding the sources and impacts of these contaminants can help you protect yourself and enjoy fresh produce to the fullest. Here’s how:

The Sources of Contamination

  1. Soil – Bacteria are naturally present in the ground and can attach to fruits and vegetables. 
  2. Handling – After picking it up from the soil until it reaches your plate, it might pass through multiple hands. It’s much more dangerous if they’re unsanitized. 
  3. Pesticides – Pesticides are chemicals applied to crops. A part of it can remain and be bad for your body.
  4. Water – You can get infected if your water does not come from a clean source. 
  5. Transport and Storage – Often overlooked, if they aren’t clean or previously had contaminated goods, it can be bad for you. 

The Impact of Contaminants

  1. Tummy Aches
  2. Dehydration
  3. It messes with your body’s hormone system
  4. Can cause cancer
  5. Organ damage

Knowing where contaminants can come from and their effects allows us to take safety measures

General Tips for Cleaning Produce

As you walk through the fruit and vegetable aisle, seeing and smelling them will make you want to buy them. However, it’s not just about selecting the best just because it always looks good. Here are a few tips to remember: 

1. Aim to Buy Seasonal Produce

Not only will this taste better, but it’s also often grown closer to where you are. This can reduce the time when your food is exposed to contaminants. 

Look for something free from:

  • Bruises
  • Molds
  • Cuts

2. Know More About The Products

Whether it be your grocery store, local farmers, or online sellers, you need insights into how it’s grown. 

Whether organic or conventional, look for something highly beneficial for you and your family. 

3. Store Before Washing

Once you’ve brought your treasures home, storing them correctly is essential. If you think keeping your fruits and veggies in your kitchen will make them okay overnight, think again. 

So, here are some specific ways that you can practice:

  • Have you gotten used to washing your produce as soon as you get home? If you don’t consume it immediately, don’t do it. Having it wet can attract mold and bacteria.  
  • Cold-sensitive items should be stored at room temperature until they ripen. Then, you can transfer them to the refrigerator. 
  • Apples and bananas have something in them that makes them faster to ripen up. So storing them separately can prevent them from getting easily spoiled. 
  • Leafy greens like lettuce or spinach enjoy a wetter environment. Store them in such. 
  • Fruits like apples and berries don’t like too much moisture. They’re more like us, who prefer drier, less steamy rooms.
  • Refrigerators nowadays come with unique drawers where you can adjust this moisture level. You can set the perfect comfort zone for your fruits and veggies. 

Best Practices for Washing Fresh Produce

Learning the best practices to avoid chronic diseases ensures your produce still looks as if it’s freshly purchased. So here are a few ways to let your taste buds enjoy the most of the food you prepare. 

1. Soft Fruits

Your favorite berries and grapes need a gentle soaking method because they are fragile. To start, here are a few steps that can help you:

Step 1: Wash your hands thoroughly.

Step 2: Get a large bowl, place the fruits, and submerge it into cold water.

Step 3: Add a tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to every quart of water for extra cleaning.

Step 4: Let the fruits soak for about 5 to 10 minutes. This helps remove dirt, pesticides, and other contaminants. 

Step 5: Gently swirl the fruits in the water and reach all the surface of the fruits. 

Step 6: Empty the bowl and refill with cold water.

Step 7: Swirl them again, lift them out, and let the water drain.

Step 8: Repeat the process 2-3 times or until the water looks clear. 

Step 9: Spread the fruits on a clean towel.

Step 10: Pat them dry gently or allow them to air dry. 

2. Leafy Greens

Leafy greens come with multiple layers, that’s why it’s important to clean them. The most effective method is the “Agitation and Rinse Technique”. Here’s how you can apply them.

Step 1: Start by removing the discolored leaves and the ones that look unalive.

Step 2: With a large basin, fill it with cold water. Soak them for a few minutes to loosen any dirt.

Step 3: Swish the greens around using your hands. This process is called ‘agitation’. It avoids damaging the leaves.

Step 4: Instead of draining the water, lift them out and transfer them to another container. This is so it doesn’t get reintroduced onto other products. 

Step 5: Give them a final rinse under cold water.

Step 6: If you have a salad spinner, spin away the excess. If none, pat them dry with towels.

3. Hard-skinned Produce

Still, in the summer season, it’s best to enjoy a juicy melon or a fresh cucumber nowadays. But before enjoying these treats, remove all those that harm. Here’s a method to savor your produce:

Step 1: Clean your sink and use a basin or a large bowl.

Step 2: Place them under cool water. If you might want to use hot water, don’t. It can soften and be not at the best state. 

Step 3:  Grab a vegetable brush or a clean, soft brush. 

Step 4: Use your brush to scrub the surface gently with enough pressure to remove the dirt. 

Step 5: After brushing the entire surface, rinse it thoroughly under cool running water. You might think it’s unimportant, but drying it with a clean cloth will help.

4. Thin-skinned Produce

Tomatoes and peaches are thin-skinned products that can be more exposed to bacteria because of their layers. Here are a few soaking and rubbing methods: 

Step 1: Prefer cold water for thin-skinned fruits so germs can’t penetrate easily.

Step 2: Add white vinegar or apple cider to remove the wax for an extra layer of cleansing. 

Step 3: Place your thin-skinned fruits into the water and soak them for a few minutes. 

Step 4: After soaking, gently rub the fruits with your fingers. 

Step 5: Do the final rinse again under cold running water. After the rinse, store them on a drying rack to maintain freshness.

Using Cleaning Solutions

One of the most personalized aspects of cleaning fresh produce is the solutions you are using. Below are some options available. 

1. Natural Agents

These agents are simple and organic. Two of the most popular agents for washing produce are:

  • Vinegar – Apply one part vinegar to three parts water can reduce bacteria. It’s eco-friendly and cost-effective. 
  • Lemon Juice – Mix a tablespoon of baking soda for half a lemon in a cup of water. This also offers a fresh scent to your food. 

2. Commercialized Agents

On the other hand, we have commercially available produce washes. These are solutions designed to clean the produce effectively.

Always follow the directions on the label, as concentrations and recommended soaking times can vary.

These are a few examples that you can look for:

  • Baking Soda Solutions
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Ozone Washes
  • Chlorine-based Washes
  • Plant-derived Soaps
  • Enzyme-based Cleaners
  • Antibacterial Produce Washes
  • Biodegradable Fruit and Vegetable Cleaners

Storage After Cleaning

Once you’ve given your produce the care it deserves through proper washing, now’s the time to store it correctly. Here’s a personalized guide on keeping your cleaned fruits and veggies in the best condition:

1. Adjust the Temperature

The ideal temperature is around 37°F (3°C). This maintains the crispness of greens and the freshness of fruits.

2. Use Produce Drawers

These are the special compartments we mentioned earlier. They help regulate humidity levels to keep your vegetables and fruits at their freshest.

3. Always Ventilate

If you are used to storing produce in plastic bags, make small holes or slightly open them. You can also use mesh or specialized produce storage bags in stores. 

4. Know Your Ethylene Producers

Apples, bananas, and avocados release ethylene gas, which can ripen and rot your food quickly. Separate and store them away from the others. 

5. Separate Raw from Cooked

Never store those you intend to eat without cooking, close to cooked foods like cheeses and ready-to-eat deli items.

6. Store Them Properly

Place specific shelves or bins for different types of produce. For instance, one drawer for leafy greens, another for fruits, and maybe a shelf or compartment for herbs.

7. Use Clean Containers

If you prefer storing your produce in containers after washing, it should be clean and dry. This will prevent bacterial growth and extend the freshness of your produce.

Wrapping It Up

Fresh produce can bring delight to nourish our bodies. Throughout our exploration of the best practices for cleaning produce, we can enjoy the taste of the fruits and veggies we buy. 

Now that you know the how-to’s, maximize the produce’s benefits through Fresh Farms. We commit ourselves to providing quality, freshness, and health. 

Let every bite you take be a testament to your care and dedication to ensuring the best for yourself and your family.