By Pat Crocker

It’s a myth that organic foods don’t need to be washed. Think about that turnip pushing its pointy head up through the soil. If that turnip is lucky enough to be growing in organic soil, that soil is bursting with microbes, bacteria, and other helpful soil organisms. And that turnip will pass through several hands (perhaps even be sneezed on) before it finds its way to your grocery cart.

It’s a fact: Bacteria such as listeria, salmonella, and E. coli may be clinging to your fruits and vegetables. Washing is the first line of defense in protecting the produce — and you — so here are some tips:

  • Wash firm fruits and root vegetables, celery, apples, grapes, and stone fruits when you get home from the market. That way, you can set these healthy foods out as snacks and know that they won’t have nasty chemicals or bacteria to cause food-borne illness.

  • Don’t wash delicate foods such as berries and mushrooms until just before you’re ready to use them. This keeps them dry and helps prevent mold from working its destruction.

  • Wash all pre-packaged fruits and vegetables, even if the label claims they have been pre-washed. One of the easiest and most effective ways to clean most vegetables, as well as tree and stone fruit, is to immerse them in a sink full of cool water with 1/4 cup white vinegar added. Use a vegetable brush to gently scrub them all over. Rinse and pat dry before storing. Wash delicate fruit such as raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries by placing them in a colander or sieve and swishing them through the vinegar water. Rinse and pat dry before using.

    Never use soaps, detergents, bleaches or other toxic cleaning chemicals on your precious produce. These chemicals will leave a toxic residue of their own.

The figure shows how to wash your fruits and veggies so they’re clean and ready for your juices and smoothies.

Washing your fruits and vegetables. [Credit: Illustration by Elizabeth Kurtzman]
Credit: Illustration by Elizabeth Kurtzman
Washing your fruits and vegetables.