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When the better part of your Saturday morning is spent happily comparing fresh leafy greens and rainbow-colored bell peppers at a local farmers market, it’s safe to say that hunting for veggies is more than just a routine part of grocery shopping-it’s an experience, and a fun one at that. Before you start whipping up that veggie casserole, though, it’s crucial to properly wash and prepare your produce when you are ready to use it. Trust us-the 10 minutes it’ll take is definitely worth your health and safety. Here are my four favorite methods for quickly washing produce:
1. Rinse in cold running water.
Best for: delicate produce
It’s wise to first get rid of any germs on your hands so they don’t transfer to the freshly picked veggies. After washing your hands with warm water and soap, gather the vegetables and cut off any visibly damaged areas with a sharp knife. We know it’s tempting, but don’t peel the veggies just yet-simply rinse them under cold water in a sink, rubbing each section gently. Once you’ve patted the vegetables dry with a paper towel, you’re free to peel and prepare them any way you’d like. If the veggies are tightly packed, like those delicious cherry tomatoes you couldn’t resist snatching up, be sure to separate them to rinse each one.
Best for: tightly packed, unevenly textured vegetables
Reaching every nook and cranny can seem next to impossible with broccoli, cauliflower and any other farmers market finds that sport a rough, bumpy texture. Since simply rinsing these types of vegetables won’t guarantee complete cleanliness, it’s best to soak them, too. Fill a large pot with cool water. Add the vegetables and turn each one so that every inch gets wet. Allow them to collectively soak for about two minutes, then rinse each one thoroughly; this ensures that any lingering dirt particles and contaminants hiding in the veggies’ raised exteriors are washed away completely. Never soak porous vegetables like mushrooms.
3. Scrub with a vegetable brush.
Best for: firm vegetables
The sturdier the veggie, the easier it is to scrape away leftover residue from pesticides. Using a produce brush, scrub cucumbers, squash and other types of firm vegetables while simultaneously rinsing them in cold water. Once they’re all clean, blot dry with a cloth. The bristles of a vegetable brush also work hard to remove any small garden bugs that are clinging for dear life-most definitely an incentive to get them squeaky clean.
4. Wash vegetables with a white vinegar solution.
Best for: any veggie begging for a deep clean
Vegetables are pretty low-maintenance, and can be disinfected with just water-most of the time. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration advises against the use of detergents, soap or any other commercial product altogether while cleaning them. However, for those of you who are extra wary of getting a foodborne illness from a contaminated veggie, a homemade white vinegar solution can be used to sterilize them. Combine 1½ cups water with ½ cup white vinegar and add a teaspoon of lemon juice. Soak or spray veggies with the mixture, and dry with a clean towel. The acidic cleaner is completely safe, and let’s be real-if there’s a chance to use white vinegar, we’re the first to jump on it.
The moral of the story: Just because your veggies are farm fresh does not mean they’re free of dirt, bugs, pesticide elements or bacteria that could potentially cause food poisoning. These four quick steps will keep produce cleaner and fresher and make them taste that much better-so you can enjoy every bite without having to worry.
Once you’re finished cleaning the veggies, use them up with our favorite recipes for roasted vegetables.