Beasties in Our Greens

cleaning-vegetablesSo, here we all are trying to incorporate as much raw food into our diets as possible, relishing the present and future effects of our commitment to evolved eating. Look at this wonderful food: colorful, crisp, unadulterated, perfect. Its easy to forget that even the innocent apple or peach, even the verdant head of lettuce, harbors its own evil secrets.

The produce that enters your home – no matter the avenue it took to get there – is, in itself, a miscreant – capable of wreaking havoc. We are talking about pesticide residue. We are talking about contamination. We are talking about e coli and salmonella and a slew of other stuff that sounds disgusting and can honestly make you sick.

When we hear the words ‘pesticide’ and ‘fungicide’ it sets off an internal alarm. We have been taught to steer clear of products that veer from the natural and are increasingly aware of the threats that commercially raised produce pose to our environment via the use of synthetic pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers. There’s a lot to keep track of all of a sudden.

Now there are those who say, “What’s a little pesticide? So what if a tiny bit stays on the food? The industry is so carefully monitored it doesn’t really matter”. I’m not one of those people. I stopped trusting the FDA when they started actively approving GMOs without really looking into whether or not there were any negative effects. Hell, we still don’t really have a clue about what’s going on there.

So we run to the organic as a safe haven. Me included.

Only problem is, it’s not necessarily as safe as it makes itself out to be.

Newsflash. Organic farming employs pesticides and fungicides to protect their produce too. There are typically over 20 different chemicals that are used in the growth and processing of organic produce that bear the seal of approval from US Organic Standard, some of which are used in even greater quantities than their synthetic counterparts. Why? Because, frankly, thy’re not as strong. So you need more to keep the ‘beasties’ away.

The big difference is that organic farmers use organic products. Organic pesticides and fungicides are derived from natural sources. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it? But then you hear something like this: they used to use a plant derivative pesticide known as Rotenenome that was made from the roots and stems of a handful of sub-tropical plants…until they found it to be so toxic that it was actually capable of killing humans! And there’s lots more where that came from! The plant world is chock-full of marvelous poisons, toxins and chemicals that they use to protect and propagate. Crafty little creatures.

You wouldn’t want any of that stuff on your food, though.

And then there’s the soil itself. That good, organic soil.

Manure is used prolifically in organic operations as opposed to synthetic fertilizers and with manure many pathogens such as salmonella and e coli are spread to our food through fecal contamination, making the risks higher for food borne illnesses than it is in commercial farming.

So, where does that leave us? Maybe a little depressed.

The FDA says that we need to Wash Our Fruits and Vegetables. It’s supposed to be a mantra or something. And if you don’t know exactly where your food is coming from and how it’s being produced, I guess this little hint makes sense.

Anyway, nothing special is needed for this task. Whatever you do, don’t use any commercial soaps, detergents or bleaches; you might be better off with dirty veggies! Water will work.. although if you’re a real vigilante there are a number of fruit and vegetable cleaners out there that will do the trick. Personally, I don’t go that route. For those tricky heads of green, I’ll remove all the outer leaves and rinse thoroughly with my sinks spray attachment, getting in all the creases and folds. I use a little brush to scrub my less delicate fruits. And there’s always 3 parts water to 1 part vinegar as a fruit and veggie rinse although after that I’m likely to don my sprayer again to remove any traces of vinegar – the smell tends to linger a little too much for my comfort.

And I’ll admit… every so often I throw caution to the wind completely. I almost always snack on the inevitable bunch of grapes on line at the grocery store or grab an apple right out of the bag on the way home from the Farmers Market.

I consider it an inoculation against all that is out there lurking in a world that is always a little less safe than it seems.

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