The produce aisle is one of the best places in a grocery store to ensure you’re stocking up on nutrient-rich foods that add fiber, increase satiety, and generally keep your body in working order. But as we’ve previously explained, those grocery store water nozzles are mainly for theatrics, and to add a little bulk to vegetables sold by weight—not to clean your produce.
To really make sure your vegetables are clean and free of bacteria before adding them to meals, you need to take action at home. As The Washington Post's Becky Krystal recently explained, it’s a little more involved than just running lettuce under the faucet.
The first thing you want to do is wash your own hands. It makes little sense to rinse vegetables if your handling of them just reintroduces germs. Then, wash your produce with plain water and gently rub the surface to dislodge any gunk. If it’s a root vegetable, like a carrot, you probably want to use a stiff brush to attack the soil left behind.
For leafy greens, a water bath might be preferable to a spray wash. Tearing off the outer layer will get rid of a lot of bacteria, and the remaining debris in the inner layers will get dislodged after being submerged. (You might be surprised by the dirt left at the bottom of a water basin.) Five minutes is sufficient. To avoid serving soggy leaves or herbs, dry them with a towel or in a salad spinner.
It’s also a good idea to wash your produce just before you’re ready to prepare your meal, not right after you bring it home. Washing and then refrigerating just leads to dampness that expedites spoilage.
And yes, you should wash your fruit, or anything else with skin. Even though apples and oranges are basically sealed, you don’t want any surface bacteria moving to the interior when cutting or peeling.
[h/t The Washington Post]