How to wash fruit and vegetables


According to The Environmental Working Group (EWG), at least one pesticide remains on 63 percent of commonly purchased produce even after it was washed. Pesticides are chemical toxins which are linked to health risks such a hormone disruption, skin, eye and lung irritation, brain and nervous system toxicity, and cancer. Knowing how to clean excess pesticides off your fruit and vegetables is as important as eating your five a day. Unfortunately, due to the high demands on agriculture, no foods are completely pesticide free, including organic food. This means extra care is needed when washing your fruit and vegetables.

Why do we need pesticides on our fruits and vegetables?

To keep diseases, insects, and weeds away. They also increase the shelf life of fresh produce, especially those that get exported to other countries.

Organic vs conventional

The difference between organic and conventional pesticides is that the latter are made of synthetic herbicides and insecticides, while organic pesticides are of natural origin . This doesn’t mean we should be consuming either of these, especially our children who need all the nutrients in fresh food to grow and develop into healthy adults.

Reduce your family’s exposure to pesticides

The best ways to reduce your exposure to chemicals in food is to a) buy local produce (less pesticides are needed due to shorter transport routes), b) buy organic where possible or use the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists, and c) always wash your fruit and vegetables properly.

How to wash fruit and vegetables

The most commonly used ingredients for washing fresh produce is baking soda (bicarbonate of soda), vinegar or buying a natural fruit and vegetable wash. Either of these methods will work if used correctly, however baking soda is one of the least expensive options. Follow these simple guidelines for removing excess pesticides with baking soda:

1. Wash your fruit and vegetables before you use it not as soon as you buy it. If you wash it too soon, the excess moisture will spoil the produce quicker. 

2. Mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda in a large bowl. This solution can be used to wash leafy greens and smooth skinned veggies and fruits. Leave for 1 minute, then rinse well with clean cold water. For smooth skinned fruits and vegetables (e.g. apples, lemons), scrub them with a brush before rinsing. I usually wash, rinse and dry my leafy greens in a salad spinner.

3. For thin skinned fruits and vegetables such as berries and mushrooms, do not soak. Toss them gently in the solution, rinse immediately under cold water and pat dry. Mushrooms tend to absorb water very quickly so make sure they are whole and only wash them when you are ready to cook them.