Eating healthier has been a long journey for my family. In my experience, eating healthier is a process. A few people can quit eating the bad stuff cold turkey. I don’t like those people. The rest of us have to take it slow, in stages. Ironically, my family’s journey to healthier eating started when I did what any good stay-at-home mom does: I started making homemade bread for my family. Soon, I transitioned to making pizza crusts and whole wheat cookies and cakes from scratch! I dreamed of the day when I would MAKE MY OWN PASTA. Unfortunately, a couple of years later I realized that the majority of my kids and my husband are allergic to wheat. I affectionately call that season in our life The Dark Ages or THAT TIME I ALMOST KILLED MY FAMILY. But, I digress.
My family is now 12 years into our healthier eating journey. We have been eating organic produce off and on for years now. As a way to save money, recently I began buying produce in bulk from a farmer that did not use pesticides or chemicals. Every other week I buy farm fresh produce in bulk, often picked the day before, and divide it between 20-30 local families. Getting freshly picked “dirty” produce is a new experience for many of our Little Red Farm Stand families, as is getting produce that occasionally still has a bug or two in it.
So, what is the best way to clean your produce?
Fill one side of your sink or a dishpan with room temperature water. Add 1/4-1/2 cup white vinegar. The vinegar will inhibit mold growth while storing your fresh produce.
I wash all my fresh produce in the same pan at the same time. I have never had a problem with flavor transfer, such as pepper flavor getting into my berries.
Let produce soak for 5-10 minutes. I have seen other bloggers post instructions to soak for as little as 5 minutes or as long as 20 minutes. Go with your gut. There isn’t a wrong way to clean produce. I definitely wouldn’t leave the produce in the sink for longer than 20 minutes.
I stir the produce around every so often to help persistent sand and wax release and fall to the bottom of the pan.
Rinse in cool water and let air dry on a towel on the counter. To dry produce more quickly, set it out on your cooling racks (the kind you use for baking) and run a fan nearby.
Greens can be washed in a similar way. Separate the leaves, then place in your vinegar water mixture. Let sit for 5 minutes. If your greens are wilted, you can usually revive them by soaking in plain water for 15-20 first, then add the vinegar and do the 5-minute-soak. Gently swirl the loose leaves around in the water to cause the dirt and sand to fall to the bottom of the tub. At this point, I dump the tub and refill it with plain water, continuing to swirl the leaves around (no vinegar needed). I repeat the dump-refill-swirl cycle until I no longer see sand in the bottom of the tub. Spinach seems to be the worst offender when it comes to sandiness and causes the most repetitions. I dry my greens in a salad spinner bowl.
It is my experience that most greens store well dry and sealed in gallon freezer bags in the fridge. I usually take the opportunity to tear my lettuce into smaller pieces before storing. I use the freezer bags because they are sturdier than the regular bags.
When soaking greens or soft-skinned fruit like strawberries or peaches, I use less vinegar. When soaking waxy cucumbers, I use more. The only produce that I have never soaked are bananas, onions, and garlic. Because we peel the outer layer of each of those off, I don’t worry about soaking them. I do soak avocados because they tend to spoil quickly in my warm house.
Because I love my 14 year old daughter’s photography, here are a few extra pics for your enjoyment. I love this photo of my youngest daughter helping me. True to life, that is a sink full of dishes waiting to be washed on the other side.
In spite of being a little blurry, I love this one because her hands are in the water with mine.
And, just another pretty pic.
Unfortunately, those pesky little bugs are going to pop up every so often. One night when I was making dinner about a month ago, a large grub-worm looking thing was inside one of my cabbage’s outer leaves. YUCK!!!! I “made” my 15 year old son take the cabbage outside to dispose of the unlucky critter. He brought a bug-free cabbage back inside and I went on preparing dinner.
Not sure what you guys that don’t have 15-year-old sons are going to do. Good luck with that…