Rinsing your vegetables in tap water is the best approach in a hurry, but this chemical-free method has been proven to clean your veggies even better.
There’s no doubt about it – washing your raw vegetables before cooking is essential in any kitchen. But some shoppers feel the need to be extra careful when it comes to contaminants on the skin of mass-produced vegetables, and have turned to chemical rinses and treatments.
You could be in one of two camps – either you believe that a vigorous rinse of your vegetables with cold water in a clean bowl is good enough, or you find yourself doling out extra cash for chemical rinses. But a team of researchers at the University of Maine’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition just proved one method is more effective than the other, and have suggested that distilled water is the most effective (and cost-friendly) cleanser in your home kitchen.
The researchers at the University of Maine discovered distilled water’s cleansing power after conducting clinical tests of commercial wash treatments available to consumers nationwide. They tested Proctor & Gamble’s Fit Wash, a fruit and vegetable produce wash that’s also part of a larger product line including dish washing detergent, as well as two different commercial water and food sterilizers.
Both the commercial Fit vegetable wash and distilled water were found to remove the same amount of harmful microbes from vegetables during a wash. The same researchers acknowledged that cold tap water is often up to the challenge of keeping your veggies clean – most vegetables would do well to be soaked, rinsed away from a contaminated sink or drain, and then patted dry with paper towels. There are other methods of cleansing vegetables and homegrown produce, such as vinegar or baking soda, but the University of Maine’s team maintains that water is the most effective method of rinsing your veggies.
It’s important to note that you should never resort to using non-specialized soaps or detergents to clean vegetables, and always clean cutting surfaces and utensils.
Some vegetables have a thicker exterior than others, and hard-to-remove microbes might linger after a wash – which is where the vegetable brush comes in.
The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences published a guide to home gardening safety that illustrates the power of a vegetable brush. This literature indicates that vegetables with harder skins– such as root vegetables, cucumbers, and bell peppers– can host germs on the exterior that will transfer to the inner flesh if they're not properly brushed. The vegetable brush can help ensure that any hard-to-remove germs on tough surfaces will be properly scrubbed off in a wash.
Turns out, in a market saturated with vegetable washes, the best purchases you can make are distilled water and a good vegetable brush.