When it comes to buying produce there are several options as far as organic vs non organic. Ultimately eating all organic would be the top dog but in our day and age this is usually impossible. I was trying to buy all organic products and soon became frustrated with the amount of money I was spending with few food items. I discussed with several friends and did a little reading. I backed down to the “Dirty Dozen” for the products I purchased strictly Organic. This is also difficult as I was traveling store to store to find what I was looking for to be both organic and frugal! I am now currently only buying organic eggs or meat (which we rarely purchase). Fish wise I try to make sure it is wild caught. I decided to go non-organic but keep my same weekly grocery budget ($200 a week) but increasing the amount of fruit and vegetable consumption! I did some research and found a simple way to wash the produce and be assured that all the “bad stuff” was removed. I found that it is as simple as water and vinegar. Actually, vinegar has SOOOO many uses if you wanted to research that a little more. It is a great cleaner in all general purpose. Now I still suggest organic if you are blessed enough to swing that but if you are not I would suggest vinegar and water soak/spray.
Don’t take my word for it, See below…
Many fruits and vegetables are grown with pesticides to get rid of bugs. Although nobody wants to find a creepy crawly thing in a peach or tomato, according to the Environmental Working Group, even small doses of pesticides can adversely affect your health and are worrisome, not well understood, and in some cases are completely unstudied.
Fortunately, you can drastically reduce your exposure to pesticides and bacteria found on produce with a thorough vinegarand water wash. Experts found that a white vinegar and water wash kills 98% of bacteria and removes pesticides.
You can concoct your own vinegar/water mixture at home to save money. You’ll probably spend less than 20 cents to make a homemade vinegar and water rinse, compared to around $4 for a premade produce wash. Plus, you can use the same bottle many times when you make your own wash!
Good Green Habits for Washing Produce
- Mix 3 parts water to 1 part white vinegar (3:1 ) in a spray bottle.
- Spray on fruits and veggies to get rid of pesticide residue.
- Rinse with water after spraying.
- Fill a bowl with water and add 1/8 to 1/2 cup of vinegar, depending on the size of your bowl.
- Place your fruits and veggies in the bowl.
- Soak for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Rinse with water.
Have you ever wondered whether those expensive veggie washes are worth the money?
The editors of Cook’s Illustrated, a serious foodie magazine, wondered too. They usually focus on cooking techniques, but recently they looked into techniques for cleaning food.
“We wondered ourselves, you know, what’s the best way to be washing an apple, or the best way to be washing a pear,” said Jack Bishop, editor at Cook’s Illustrated.
Testing Cleaning Techniques
So the magazine did some comparative testing, by cleaning apples and pears in four different ways. They washed one batch with an antibacterial soap. (That, by the way, is not recommended by food safety experts — nobody thinks swallowing soap is a good idea.)
They washed other pieces of fruit with a solution of diluted vinegar (one part vinegar to three parts water), rinsing afterward with pure water. They scrubbed the third group with a brush, and simply rinsed the fourth group with clean water.
To measure how well each technique worked, they sampled the outside of the fruit with sterile cotton swabs, then rubbed the little bits of grime onto Petri dishes.
Jack Bishop says they next let the Petri dishes sit at 80 degrees for several days to see what bacteria grew. Then they counted how many bacterial colonies were present.
It turns out the scrub brush removed 85 percent of the bacteria — a little more than the water alone.
But the cleaning method that worked the best was the dilute vinegar rinse. It removed 98 percent of the bacteria.
Cleaning with Vinegar
“I’ve got a spray bottle filled with three cups of water and one cup of white vinegar,” Bishop says. “It’s in a spray bottle — the kind you’d mist your plants with.”
Bishop sprays each apple with about six squirts of the solution — just enough to coat the surface — and then rinses it under the tap.
“The cold water will wash the residual flavor from the vinegar, and finishes the cleaning process,” Bishop says. “So it’s a 30-second, 50-cent investment.”
The technique works best for smooth skinned fruits and vegetables. When you get to broccoli, lettuce leaves, or spinach, produce is harder to clean — as we’ve learned from recent nationwide recalls. Bishop’s team found that soaking lettuce in the vinegar solution works well, but it’s a little more labor intensive than spraying apples.
“You’re going to have to separate out the leaves. You can’t do a whole head. And that may be where it gets to be impractical, because you need a big enough bowl to be three parts water and one part vinegar,” says Bishop.
The folks at Cook’s Illustrated are not the first to document the effectiveness of acidic washes. Researchers at the Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at Tennessee State University tested dilute vinegar against plain water and a commercial product called Veggie Wash that they purchased at a grocery store.
“We really did not really find the veggie washes effective or necessary,” says Sandria Godwin, who oversaw the project.
Godwin says they do get rid of most bacteria, but her team of researchers found that water works just as well. They found that water can remove 98 percent of bacteria when it’s used to rinse and soak produce.
For vegetables such as broccoli or cauliflower that have lots of crevices, Godwin recommends a two-minute soak, even though this contradicts the advice of government food-safety experts who are concerned about cross-contamination of bacteria.
“They’re not recommending the soaking of foods because that puts bacteria in the sink itself,” explains Godwin. “We still think you should go ahead and do the soak, and wash your sink when you get through!”
For people who aren’t willing to go to all this trouble — what about that old technique of rubbing or polishing a piece of fruit on your clothes to get off the grime? There’s not much research, but Godwin did have one student look into it a little bit.
“We lined people up in here and had them blow on their apple and rub it on their shirt or lab coats to see if that’s effective,” Godwin says. “And surprisingly it did something; it’s better than nothing. But it really depends on how clean the shirt is.”
So, she does not recommend that. Here’s a better tip: Since bacteria and dirt are usually trapped at the blossom and stem ends of fruit, the Tennessee researchers say slicing off both ends after rinsing is a good idea.