Cleaning vegetables from the grocery store, your local farmer’s market or even your favorite organic co-op is incredibly important. Perhaps washing vegetables before cooking with them or eating them raw is something that you’ve always done simply because you saw your parents do the same thing while growing up. Or, maybe you choose to clean vegetables because you see dirt or other particles on them during preparation or when you bring them home from the store. The truth is, washing your vegetables isn’t just a good idea, and it’s the only way to help prevent the most common types of foodborne illnesses that are sometimes found in vegetables, including Listeria, Salmonella and E. coli. And for those who select standard vegetables over organically grown options, washing vegetables also gets rid of any dangerous residue from pesticides, which become a growing concern for many households.
Several types of vegetables, including potatoes, are more at risk for certain types of contamination, simply because they are grown in the ground. Others have a higher risk for contamination due to the way they are handled on the long trip from the farm to the grocery store. Preparing and storing vegetables throughout this process opens the door to a great deal of contaminants, including dangerous bacteria, which can live and thrive on vegetables. Washing vegetables thoroughly helps to reduce the risk of dangerous illnesses related to these types of bacteria.
Although there are no pesticides or growth hormones used in organic produce, there is still a risk of vegetables coming into contact with contaminants that are found in the soil. The FDA recommends that both organically grown produce and produce bought at farmer’s markets or other local outlets should always be washed.
It’s best to wash your vegetables right before cutting them, using a special vegetable scrubby or soft brush to clean tougher skinned vegetables. Some households also add a special fruit and vegetable spray or wash to ensure that the vegetables are extra clean. Don’t use a standard soap or detergent, as these are not safe for consumption and can make you ill. Once you’ve got them clean, drying vegetables with a soft paper towel helps to remove any remaining germs or dirt.
It’s important to remember that no matter what kind of vegetables you have or where you buy them from, washing them prior to consumption is the best way to protect yourself and your family from dangerous and potentially life threatening food borne illnesses. Make it the first step in your dinner routine – before chopping up vegetables for a salad or a delicious side dish, wash and scrub your vegetables throughout, making sure that everything is as clean as possible before you start cooking. That’s the best way to make sure that you are doing everything possible to keep your family safe while also ensuring that they get the most nutrition possible out of every bite of vegetables that you serve.