Kitchen Tip: Making Produce Safe to Eat

Water Photo

By willg photos (c) all rights reserved

Water Wins Again

Just about the time salmonella and E. coli fade from the headlines, it seems like some new contamination case surfaces, putting us right back on edge about the safety of our food.  Remember the outbreak of listeria in last summer’s cantaloup crop?

Fortunately, in one of our Whole Kitchen series, CSU Extension Agent Ann Zander shared a surprisingly effective weapon in the food safety wars:  running water.  No need for fancy washing solutions or time-consuming procedures, she explained, just wash produce in running water.  Surprising as it might be, Extensions Service research showed that plain old water worked as well as commercial washing solutions–and for a lot less money!

  • The key, however, lies in washing the produce under running water.  So it’s great if you’re saving water by scrubbing produce in a bucket of water.  Just be sure to give it a final rinse with a healthy dose of running water after scrubbing.
  • The same goes for lettuce, spinach or any of the leafy greens that get washed in a salad spinner. Remove the spinner from the washing bowl and rinse the greens thoroughly under running water before spinning dry.

Steeping back to a bigger picture view on this topic, isn’t it amazing that plain old water is our best friend when it comes to safe produce?  Really elevates the stature of this seemingly common resource that we so take for granted.  What you should know, however, is that this seemingly plentiful resource is actually becoming scarcer by the day.

Although it is fundamental not only to our healthy existence but also our very survival, water is increasingly being siphoned off for things like:  washing spinach multiple times so we can have a conveniently packaged product; serving as a disposal stream for antibiotics, hormones and other pharmaceutical waste from our bodies; and most recently as a primary ingredient in oil and gas “fracking.”

What happens to our public water is a good issue to watch.  It would be ironic indeed to have plenty of oil for cars and lots of natural gas to heat our homes, only to run short of pure, clean water for drinking, growing food, cooking–and safely washing produce!

Want to learn more about the crucial role of water and how to protect this treasure?  Check out the upcoming conference:   The Downstream Neighbor, January 27-29, 2012 in Denver.

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Scrubbing Vegetables: “Veggie Scrub” Makes It Easier

Check out this great new 2-for-1 find:  A vegetable scrubber + fresh herb colander for just $3.50

Clever

Clever (and easy) gadget for vegetable scrubbing. Especially good for cleaning small produce. The Veggie Scrubber(www.VeggieScrubber.com)

Although I’m a still big fan of my $2.50 nail scrubber from the cleaning supply store, I put the “Veggie Scrub” to the test on Jerusalem artichokes (also known as sunchokes.)  These gnarly and knobby vegetables are the toughest vegetable I’ve ever scrubbed, but the Veggie Scrub did a great job with them.  I am always reluctant to buy sunchokes just because they are so hard to wash, but now that’s not the case.

The packaging instructs to either wear it like a mitt to scrub vegetables with your hand, or to pop the vegetable inside the pouch and rub under flowing water.  The first method worked best with large vegetables, while the second worked best for small things like baby turnips and potatoes.

Either way, you get a decent and inexpensive vegetable scrubber.  But wait, there’s more:  The Veggie Scrub doubles as a fresh herb “colander.”  Washing herbs is always problematic, not only because they’re small and hard to manage, but also because they get soaked and become difficult to chop.  The Veggie Scrub contains them handily while washing.  Then take the pouch outside, fling it up and down vigorously and the herbs are quickly dried enough for a decent chopping job.

Green Kitchen Tip: See tomorrow’s post, about reusing the mesh bags from lemons and limes as an herb washer/spinner

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