You can learn a lot about someone by spending some time together in the kitchen: some folks happily throw their carrots into the juicer without a peel or a rinse, while others nervously hose down their oranges with expensive cleaning sprays. But which of these generalized hypotheticals is the right way to go?
Like with most things, there's a happy medium when it comes to washing produce -- although you may want to err a bit more on the "clean freak" side of things. We asked agriculture and food safety expert Marisa Bunning to explain why the hell it's so important to clean our fruits and veggies in the first place, and how to do it without going insane.
Why can't we just be lazy and skip the sink?
It's a common misconception that washing produce is about getting rid of the pesticide residue, like that shiny wax on apples or those suspicious white flakes on oranges that everyone's so confused by. Truth is, pesticide on produce falls within allowable levels most of the time, although it may depend on what produce we're talking about and whether it's coming from overseas.
"The greater concern is with pathogenic microorganisms -- which can be bacteria, viruses, or parasites," Dr. Bunning explains. "A high number of foodborne illness outbreaks have been attributed to fresh produce because there are so many opportunities for contamination in the growing environment and after harvest."
Where do these damned microorganisms come from?
Thinking about the "farm-to-table" path of your broccoli, you have to consider the soil it was grown in, the water that was used, how it was stored, transported, and handled in the grocery store, with potential for contamination at every step of the way. If you're one of those five-second-rule naysayers who washes an apple a little longer after dropping it and watching it roll along the unwashed kitchen floor... don't kid yourself. You have no idea where else it's been.