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I follow a pretty simple process and a few guiding principles for cleaning our fresh produce. It isn’t always the quickest process (especially when I get distracted), but it is simple and takes just a few “ingredients” to get everything clean and remove pesticides the best we can.
First, when we’re buying our produce, we try to always buy organic for things on the Dirty Dozen list. These are the items found to have the most amount of pesticides in them. To help save on costs, we don’t always buy organic for the things on the Clean Fifteen list. These are the items that have the least amount of pesticides in them.
Do what works best for you and your budget! Now that it’s summer, we first check our local Farmer’s Market and pick up as much as we can from the local farmers. Then we’ll grab whatever else we need from Aldi or Costco. Typically more veggies from Aldi and more fruits from Costco is what works best for us!
Clean your produce right away. The longer pesticides sit on the produce, the deeper it’s absorbed and it becomes more difficult to remove. It will also be at the top of your mind when you come home and unload your groceries, so try to take care of it then!
Your produce will last longer and you can make sure you do a thorough job.. If I wait until I need something for a recipe that I’m in the middle of cooking, I’m wayyyy more likely to quick splash some water on it and call it good. You’ll also be more inclined to eat it during the week because it’s cleaned and ready to go, no real work involved!
We use two different methods for cleaning our produce, depending on what it is! The baking soda method and the white vinegar method.
Baking Soda Method
This is what we do for our sturdy-skinned produce. Think: apples, nectarines, grapes, cucumbers, broccoli, potatoes, peppers etc.
Recommended ratio: 1 tbsp baking soda to 6 cups of water. You can also add in two pumps of On Guard Foaming Hand Wash or homemade foaming hand soap and 5 drops of Green Mandarin essential oil for an added boost.
Let your produce sit in the baking soda water solution for 15 minutes. 15 minutes is key.
This study found this to be the optimal time at removing pesticides. After soaking for 15 minutes, they found no traces of the two pesticides they were testing for. Amazing!
After 15 minutes, rinse off, then lay produce out on flour sack towels on a cooling rack to air dry. You want everything as dry as possible before putting back in the fridge to make it last longer.
White Vinegar Method
This is what we do for thin-skinned produce. Think: strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, leafy greens, celery (f possible separate leaves/stalks for thorough cleaning), etc. The vinegar helps kill off any mold spores, making the produce last longer!
Let your produce site in the mixture for 15 minutes. Yep. 15 minutes again. Pretty simple to remember, huh? ? Next, drain and rinse off and soak for an additional 15 minutes to remove any trace of a vinegar taste.
After the second 15 minutes, lay produce out on flour sack towels on a cooling rack to air dry. Again, you want everything as dry as possible before putting back in the fridge to help make it last longer. Store your berries in mason jars to help them last 2-3 weeks!
Washing Random Produce
- Tomatoes: don’t soak these, wash the outside under cold water for 20 seconds with soap, let dry
- Fresh herbs: fill bowl with cold water + soap, hold onto stems & immerse in bowl and swish them around, at least 20 seconds or however long it takes to get them clean, let dry
- Oranges and bananas: (wash them even though they seem protected, your hands touch the porous outside skin, then the inside flesh) plop them in your vinegar rinse, or was the outside under cold water for 20 seconds with soap
Why Green Mandarin?
Lemon essential oil was my #1 go-to for cleaning produce, until I learned a little more about Green Mandarin and wow, it’s such a hidden gem! Green Mandarin essential oil is a natural food preservative and can prolong the flavor of your produce. Amazing right?! That makes it my top pick for cleaning produce! You can also add some green salad to a fruit salad to enhance the flavor.