The Environmental Working group is a pesticide watchdog that publishes a “Dirty Dozen” list of the produce most likely to need cleaning.
Some may not realize when you purchase produce in a store you are receiving produce that has had pesticides and chemicals added to it and may contain dangerous bacteria. While organic produce does not have pesticides and chemicals, both organic and non-organic can have bacteria that can cause illness when consumed. By washing produce correctly you can remove the pesticides and chemicals, as well as kill any harmful bacteria.
First, here are the non-organic “Dirty Dozen Plus” most contaminated with pesticides: apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, hot peppers, imported nectarines, peaches, potatoes, spinach, strawberries, sweet bell peppers, kale, collard greens, and summer squash. This list makes it very clear that one cannot simply bring produce home and serve it without cleaning.
To make them safe for consumption there are varying degrees of “washing”. Some suggest the use of dish soap, but this is not recommended. The basic pesticide wash is to use distilled water and soak the produces in it or spray it on and clean thoroughly. This basic water wash is as effective as any after-market cleaner you can purchase for cleaning pesticides, but it will not kill bacteria.
For a more effective wash use a baking soda mix with 2 tablespoons of baking soda to one cup of water. If using baking soda you need to soak the produce for 5-10 minutes before rinsing. Baking soda is very effective in removing wax and pesticides, but is not as effective against bacteria as vinegar.
The most overall effective wash is to use white, distilled vinegar. If you mix water and white distilled vinegar in a spray bottle, it is easy to apply and rinse off. You can also do a vinegar bath and put your product into it. There is much discussion around how much vinegar to use, but the rule of thumb is it takes little to be effective, so try a 1:10 vinegar/water mix. This mix will cut the wax and pesticides and is highly effective against bacteria. You can also add a tablespoon of baking soda to the vinegar mix if you find you need to remove a heavy wax layer.
In summary, anyone who shops often and tries a variety of cuisine knows you cannot always find organic produce, nor can you always afford what is available. Using the information above anyone can purchase what they need and easily clean it at home so it is safe for use. Using the vinegar wash to clean produce is both inexpensive and the most effective, and will allow the savvy consumer to acquire what affordable goodies they need without worrying about the purchase or their family’s health.