The recent e-coli outbreak in Europe stemming from contaminated vegetables (German bean sprouts most likely) is a good reminder of the importance of cleaning them before consuming them. So what are the best ways to remove bacteria, pesticides, waxes and other contaminants? I just came across this handy tip sheet for cleaning and caring for your fruits and veggies from the FDA with some helpful guidelines.
One slight disagreement I have with the list, however, is the recommendation to remove the outer-most leaves of lettuce and cabbage. The outer leaves are usually the darkest in color and thus the most nutrient-dense. Rather than throw them away, wash them even more thoroughly than the inner layers of leaves before adding them to your dishes. I also recommend using a fruit and vegetable wash. I like Citrus Magic Veggie Wash which comes in a convenient spray bottle . The all-natural ingredients help remove waxes, pesticides and bacteria. After spraying your produce with the produce wash, rinse thoroughly with cool water.
Of course buying organic fruits and vegetables helps reduce potential contaminants (though the suspected bean sprouts were organic). But, if you’re on a budget and can’t afford to buy mostly organic produce, buy only organic versions of the fruits and veggies that typically are subjected to the most pesticides . The list includes: celery, apples, strawberries, bell peppers and spinach.
One more recommendation: be sure to wash thoroughly any cutting boards you use in preparing fruits and vegetables. It’s also a good idea to designate one for produce prep and another for handling meat, poultry and fish.