Just holding your fruits and veggies under a running tap doesn't always cut the mustard. Pesticides and fungicides are designed to stick to produce, even in inclement weather, so if you want your fresh goodies to be chemical free, it's going to take a little more work.
You can wash your fruit and veggies in water, rub with a cloth, or soak in a cleaning solution like vinegar, salt or baking soda, but what really works?
Washing fruit and vegetables with running water is good for at least reducing the amount of pesticides. A study by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station found that pesticide residue was reduced for nine out of the 12 pesticides tested when produce was washed with running water. When testing the 196 samples of lettuce, strawberries and tomatoes, it was found that the action of rubbing the fruit rather than the running water was what helped to eliminate pesticides.
Two other methods that are common are washing with salt and vinegar.
In a study published in Food Control, vegetables were soaked in vinegar for 20 minutes and also in a salt and water solution to remove chlorpyrifos, DDT, cypermethrin and chlorothalonil pesticides.
Both methods worked well. The vinegar effectively removed pesticides, but left a residue that affected taste. A 10 per cent salt water solution also worked really well, but the most effective method still seems to be a baking soda solution.
In a recent study, scientists from the University of Massachusetts, led by Lili He, sprayed apples with thiabendazole, a fungicide and phosmet, an insecticide, both used pervasively in the agricultural industry. They then washed the apples in water, a bleach solution and a solution of water and baking soda.
Consumer Reports wrote, "Submerging apples in a baking soda solution for two minutes removed more pesticides than a two-minute soak in the bleach solution, or two minutes of rinsing in running tap water. But it took 12 to 15 minutes in the baking soda solution to completely get rid of the pesticides used in this study."
The baking soda technique works when you mix one teaspoon of soda in two cups of water, and then leave to soak for 15 minutes.
While this study only used two pesticides, the agricultural industry has access to many more chemicals that can penetrate into the skin. That means the only real way of ensuring your produce is chemical-free is to peel it, reducing your intake of fiber and nutrients. The other option is to eat organic.
This baking soda technique works for apples, it won't work for all fruits and veggies. Raspberries, for example, shouldn't be soaked, but should be rinsed with clean water. Only wash berries when you are ready to eat them, or they will spoil. The same goes for mushrooms; wash with water or rub with a damp cloth. Pat dry with a soft cloth before using.
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You can also use a veggie brush with soft bristles to clean fruits and veggies with a harder exterior skin like potatoes, pumpkins, squash and carrots.
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