Friday, February 22, 2013

in the my produce clean?

I was thumbing through my new cookbook, The Science of Good Cooking, looking for some dessert to make for a get together at a friend's house and came across an interesting side article about cleaning apples and pears (it's on page 377, if you really wanted to know).

I've always just cleaned fruit with cold running water, probably because that's what my mom did and I've never felt the need to do anything different.

Apparently, American Test Kitchens found that spraying produce with vinegar was the best way to remove surface wax and pesticides (not sure how they know this, but that's what it says). They were curious if spraying fruit with vinegar would also destroy bacteria.  To test this, they performed an experiment with  apples and pears dividing them into five groups; unwashed, rinsed under cold running water, scrubbed in water with a brush, washed in a vinegar solution, and scrubbed with antibacterial soap.  They took surface samples of the fruit and cultured the samples in petri dishes for four days. Rinsing in cold water removed 25% of bacteria, scrubbing removed 85%, and the vinegar removed 98% (they didn't mention how the calculated these numbers, or what the antibacterial soap culture looked like).

American Test Kitchen references the journal Microbiology with the reason why vinegar works well-- the acetic acid found in vinegar lowers the internal pH of bacterial cells which causes several key biomechanical mechanism in the cell to stop working which in turn kills the bacterium.

Because of the effectiveness of vinegar, The Science of Good Cooking recommended washing produce in a solution of 3 parts water to 1 part vinegar applied from a spray bottle.  Obviously this isn't that best science or experiment that's ever been performed, but I still found it quite interesting.

Washing fruit in vinegar couldn't hurt, right?  Maybe I should go buy a new spray bottle to keep in the kitchen. I'm curious, though.  How do you wash produce?


mary said...

I enjoyed discovering your blog! I have always just rinsed produce with water but thanks to your post, I now have a spray bottle of vinegar & water next to my kitchen sink!

Rebecca said...

glad you've enjoyed it! Let me know if there's ever anything in particular you'd be interested in reading about. I have lots of ideas, but am always open to suggestions. :)

Nattie said...

I love America's Test Kitchen :) My mom always just rinced things under water but once I got married my husband said his family always washed all fruits and veggies with soap or food cleaner due to living in Mexico. I started thinking we should do the same so our fresh produce will be cleaner and healthier! Since I moved here I started to use a fruit and veggie wash from a local market that I found. I know it says it supposed to be more natural and uses lots of citus juice but to tell you the truth I haven't looked to really see what is in it. Have you heard of using fresh squeezed lemon juice for household cleaning? I think you can also use it for washing fruits/vegetables with water...

Rebecca said...

That's really interesting to me that the practice of washing produce, at least in your hubby's home, in Mexico is different that what we grew up doing, but it makes sense. I know in the US many people discourage the use of soap on produce, I believe since it's not exactly "edible".

I have seen some articles on using lemon juice as a cleaner-- one of the ideas behind it is the same as with vinegar, that the acidic nature is what makes it a good cleaner/disinfectant. I bet it would smell a lot better too! ;)