Posts Tagged ‘dirty dozen’

Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Washing Berries

June 14, 2016

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It’s berry season, and the markets are bursting with a variety to choose from. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are among the most popular of the mini fruits, and also the most delicate.

It is important to thoroughly wash berries, to remove debris. Running them under  water often damages them, as the stream provides too much force for something as fragile as a raspberry. The solution, is to soak, rather than rinse them, to get them clean. Strawberries, in particular, seem to make it to the dirty dozen list each year, due to their extremely high pesticide load. (Read more about the dirty dozen here.) Buying organic berries are recommended.

To properly clean fresh berries, place them in the basket of a salad spinner, and submerge them in cool, clean water to soak for several minutes. You can also add a couple of spoonfuls of apple cider vinegar to the first bath, to aid in the removal of debris. This may be too much acid for raspberries and blackberries, but for the sturdier varieties, the vinegar is fine. Use it sparingly, to make sure you don’t damage the fruit. Strain, and change the water a few times until the water remains clean. The vinegar is also helpful in fighting mold that develops quickly on soft fruit, like berries. Just be sure to get it all off before using them.

If you don’t have a salad spinner, a large bowl and a colander or strainer works as well.

Shake the strainer lightly, and allow the berries to dry before storing. (DON’T SPIN!!!)Place a folded paper towel in the bottom of the storage container to absorb any excess water and cushion the berries.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Washing Produce

April 18, 2016

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The annual produce “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” lists have been updated, and there are a few changes in rankings. Below are the latest results, and our take on what to do about it to keep you and your family safe from toxins and contamination.

The Dirty Dozen: These are the fruits and vegetables that contain the highest levels of pesticide contamination, as stated by the Environmental Working Group ( EWG):

  1. Strawberries
  2. Apples
  3. Nectarines
  4. Peaches
  5. Celery
  6. Grapes
  7. Cherries
  8. Spinach
  9. Tomatoes
  10. Sweet Bell Peppers
  11. Cherry Tomatoes
  12. Cucumbers

The Clean Fifteen: The following are the groups foods that have the lowest level of pesticide contamination:

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Cabbage
  5. Frozen Sweet Peas
  6. Onions
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangos
  9. Papaya
  10. Kiwi
  11. Eggplant
  12. Honeydew Melon
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Cantaloupe
  15. Cauliflower

It is interesting to note that a large portion of the Clean Fifteen are encased in nature’s own packaging which gets peeled and eliminated before consuming.

While the recommendation is to purchase organically grown varieties of the Dirty Dozen, there are also some precautions that can be taken to make the conventional versions safer to eat. These tips are common protocols that should be used on all produce, regardless of the method of farming.

Wash your produce. This may seem like a no-brainer, yet I see people that are sampling unwashed items at the farmer’s markets all the time, and someone once told me that if I wasn’t watching, they wouldn’t bother washing the salad greens at all. Shudder!

Rinse produce under cool running water. Extra sandy items can be soaked in a strainer set into a bowl of water, or a salad spinner, and then rinsed under running water afterwards to rid it of debris. This will help any “sand” settle to the bottom of the bowl, making it easier to rinse off. Harder produce can be brushed with a produce brush to remove excess dirt. While some people add soap, the FDA does not recommend it, citing that it is just adding even more chemicals to the cocktail. A little vinegar or lemon juice has an astringent effect which can aid in the cleaning process naturally. Just be sure to wash the items afterwards to avoid an unpleasant taste.

Be sure to start with clean hands so you don’t end up spreading the bacteria on them to your food.

Even if you are going to peel the produce, wash the outside well before cutting. If there is bacteria or pesticides on the outside, you will draw them through the food on your knife, essentially distributing it throughout the food.  This includes things like lemons and limes, which often get tossed into drinks, rind and all.

Dry it. Gently wipe the produce with a clean towel to dry it and have one more opportunity to wipe off any excess dirt or chemicals.

Avoid bagged salad mixes and commercially cut fruit: Those pre-bagged and pre-cut salads, vegetables and fruit are a great convenience, but with that comes added risk. The more people and machines that touch your food, the more risk of contamination there is. Many food-borne diseases are actually a result of food handling. If you must buy packaged produce, please take extra time to wash it according to the processes outline above.

While rinsing your produce is not a 100% effective in preventing food borne illness, it is the best protection we have to reduce the risks. And in this case, the benefits of eating a plant based diet, and a rainbow of fruit and vegetables drastically out weighs the risks.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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The Clean 15

June 5, 2012

We have written here about the “Dirty Dozen,” a list of produce that has the highest levels of pesticides and contamination. It is recommended that these foods be organic wherever possible.

There is another list called the “Clean 15”, which have the lowest pesticide load, and can be enjoyed in the conventional varieties.

These are:

Onions

Sweet corn

Pineapples

Avocado

Sweet peas

Mangoes

Eggplant

Cantaloupe

Kiwi

Watermelon

Sweet potatoes

Grapefruit

Mushrooms

Asparagus

Other foods, such as broccoli, cabbage and tomatoes have more recently tested cleaner as well, due to less pest threats, and therefore less spraying.

Many of these fruits and vegetables have a protective outer layer that gets peeled or removed before eating. This helps eliminate the toxins, which are largely on the outside of the food.

The current list of the most harmful foods tested positive for at least 47 different chemicals, and as many as 67. Buying organic insures that the fruit and vegetables are not treated with harmful pesticides.

Foods that should be organic:

Celery

Strawberries

Peaches

Apples

Blueberries

Nectarines

Sweet bell peppers

Spinach, kale and collard greens

Cherries

Potatoes

Grapes

Lettuce

This lists were compiled by the Environmental Working Group, which is an organization made up of scientists, researchers and policymakers. The data used was supplied by the United States Department of Agriculture’s tests for pesticide residue on fresh produce.

photos: Glasshouse Images

 


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