Wondering how to wash produce? Read about why I think washing produce with vinegar is the best way to wash produce and get step by step instructions!
Fresh fruits and vegetables are simple and delicious options for healthy, gluten-free snacking and are essential to Prep Dish meal plans. However, the journey from seed to plate can turn these nutrition packed fruits and vegetables into germ havens – even with organic produce. That's why the first step of any prep day in a Prep Dish meal plan is to wash all of the fresh produce. From there it's all ready to be chopped, diced, and sliced in preparation for the week's meals!
We're frequently asked “what is the best way to clean produce?” There are many options out there ranging from chemicals to just plain water. However, if you're looking for a green and cost-effective way to clean up that produce, our favorite way is to give the produce a bath in white vinegar and water. Research suggests that this simple trick can remove pesticides and kill up to 98% of bacteria.
Next time you get home from your grocery store run, take a few minutes and give your fruits and veggies a vinegar bath to get them ready to go. You’ll be happy during the busy days when the fridge is full of clean produce ready for easy chopping, snacking, and cooking.
How to wash produce with a vinegar bath:
1. Choose a large bowl for the vinegar bath. (You can also use your kitchen sink, but make sure to give it a good scrubbing with a non-toxic cleaner if you do so.)
2. Arrange all of your produce in the bowl, working in batches if needed. Make sure to include items like melon and onions, even though you don't eat the peel. Cutting into these can transfer germs from the outside into the portion you eat).
3. Fill up the bowl with water and white vinegar to cover the produce. You should have about 1 part white vinegar to 3 parts water. No need to make the water scalding hot. Let the produce soak for about two minutes.
4. Drain the water and rinse the produce to remove any lingering vinegar. If you don't have a large enough bowl, repeat the process for the rest of the produce.
5. Let the produce dry on a towel or use a clean paper towel to pat dry.
6. Chop up your produce for snacking and cooking or leave whole and ready to grab.
7. Enjoy the ease of pre-cleaned produce!
What else do I need to know about the BEST way to wash produce?
There's no need to make this complicated but there are a few important things to keep in mind when washing produce.
First of all, make sure to wash your hands before and after washing your produce. This will ensure you don't transfer germs to your fruits and vegetables or end up with germs from your produce on your hands when you're done.
Also, remember to wash all fruits and vegetables before you peel them. This may sound counterintuitive but when you slice through something like an onion that hasn't been washed, the germs from the outside of the onion will get on your knife and then transfer to the inside of the onion.
In addition, if there is visible dirt on your produce, such as fresh carrots from a farmers market, use a vegetable brush to scrub the dirt off before you soak with vinegar.
Lastly, make sure to thoroughly wash your bowl with hot soapy water after you rinse all of your produce. It's important to remove any germs that transferred from the produce to the bowl before using it for other purposes. If you used your sink for the vinegar bath, make sure to wash that thoroughly as well.
Do I need to wash organic produce?
In short, yes!
Even if your produce was grown without harmful chemicals and pesticides, it may still have dirt on it. It has also likely been touched and breathed on by numerous people before making it into your home (unless of course you grew it yourself!)
Thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables before consuming is also an important step in the prevention of food borne illnesses, such as E. coli.
Why does vinegar work?
Washing produce with vinegar is effective because vinegar is acidic. Its acidity allows it to remove dirt and break down residues, making it particularly useful for cleaning off the sticky film left by stickers on produce.
Vinegar also kills E. coli and salmonella, two harmful food borne illnesses.
What about commercial produce rinses?
While the little bottles of ready-made produce rinses in the grocery store may look tempting, I do not recommend them as the best way to wash produce.
Why not? They vary in terms of quality and ingredients and there have not been many studies as to their safety for consumption.
Furthermore, they're frankly unnecessary. With something as simple as vinegar removing 98% of bacteria, there's no need to buy a special product!
Is there any produce I shouldn't soak?
Yes! The number one item to avoid soaking is mushrooms.
Mushrooms easily absorb liquid and soaking them will result in soggy mushrooms. Wipe them with a damp paper towel to remove dirt instead.
You should also consider how soon you're going to eat delicate produce like berries before soaking. I love having all of my fruits and veggies washed and ready to go because it makes it SO much more likely that my family will choose fresh and healthy foods to munch on.
However, some fruits like strawberries and raspberries, do go bad more quickly if you wash them ahead of time. Eat them within a couple of days after you wash them and make sure to dry them completely so you're not putting them into the fridge still damp.
How does this fit into meal prep?
If you're new to Prep Dish, you may be surprised to hear that I don't believe there's only one “right” way to meal prep. While our weekly menus include prep day instructions (step by step instructions for how to prep a week's worth of food in one prep session), not everyone wants to prep all at once.
It works better for some to prep each day's dinner in the morning while the kids are finishing breakfast or to do all of the chopping on Saturday, but then cook all of the meals the day-of.
The one thing I do recommend everyone does is wash and prep produce right away. This is for two reasons.
First of all, it is so much more efficient. Getting out your vegetable scrub brush (and hopefully your vinegar now too!), your cutting board, etc. each and every day when you're ready to cook dinner is kind of a waste of time. You'll notice a huge time savings if you tackle this part of your meal prep all at once.
The other reason to wash and prep produce ahead is that it really encourages healthy eating for the whole family! I love opening the fridge and seeing totally prepped fruits and veggies ready for snacking on. If I'm hungry and want a snack it is much less likely I'll choose fresh veggies if they still need to be washed and chopped.
I encourage you to try washing and prepping your produce at the start of the week for a couple of weeks and see if it makes a difference for you!
What are some recipes for all of this nice clean produce?
On our weekly Prep Dish grocery lists the produce section is always the longest! Whether it's gluten free, paleo or keto, I believe that eating tons of produce is the best way to stay healthy and feel your best.
Here are a few of my favorite produce-packed recipes!
Psst! Want to know how to store your produce for maximum shelf life? Check out our FREE resource on ethylene producers and what this means for food storage!
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