Wash Behind your Ears!

We all know that vegetables grow in dirt (well at least most of us know that).  Some grow under the ground, such as carrots, parsnips, onions, potatoes, turnips, celeriac or beets among others.  These are known as root vegetables because they are…the root of the plant that is growing above the ground.

There are also the leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, cabbage and lettuce which grow above ground and then there are all the other veggies that grow on the plant itself such as eggplant/aubergine, tomatoes, corn, peppers, and zucchini/courgette.

Regardless of where they grow, during the process of growing, there will be physical contaminants that come into contact with the plant that we really don’t want to eat:  dirt, bugs and pesticides being the big three.

Once your fruits and vegetables were ready for harvest, they were handled by several different pairs of hands in the fields and orchards, then in the warehouses, and finally again in your grocery store. Bacteria such as Listeria, Salmonella and E. Coli may all be lurking on your fruits and vegetables, whether they are organically grown or conventionally grown. These bacteria all cause food-borne illness and need to be washed away from your produce.

Many vegetables are somewhat pre-washed before they get packed up and shipped to the grocery store, but if you’re buying from a farmer’s market, the veggies most likely will not have gone through the process of pre-washing.

  • Start by keeping your kitchen countertops, refrigerator, cookware and cutlery clean.
  • Always wash your hands before preparing meals and handling fruits and vegetables.
  • Keep fresh greens, fruits and vegetables away from uncooked meats to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Choose healthy looking, ripe fruits and vegetables when you shop. Avoid bruised, moldy and mushy produce.
  • Wait until just before you eat or prepare your fruits and vegetables to wash them. Fruits and vegetables have natural coatings that keep moisture inside, and washing them will make them spoil sooner.
  • Wash all pre-packaged fruits and vegetables, even if the label claims they are pre-washed.
  • Wash all parts of your fruits and vegetables, even if you don’t plan on eating them. Bacteria can live on the rind of an orange or the skin of a cucumber, for example. Though you may peel them away and toss them in the trash, the bacteria can be transferred from the outside of the fruit or vegetable to the knife you use to cut them, and then onto the parts you will be eating.
  • Gently rub fruits and vegetables under running water. Don’t use any soaps, detergents, bleaches or other toxic cleaning chemicals. These chemicals will leave a residue of their own on your produce.
  • Commercial sprays and washes sold for cleaning vegetables really aren’t any better than cleaning thoroughly with plain water, so don’t waste your money on them.
  • Firmer fruits and vegetables, such as apples and potatoes, can be scrubbed with a vegetable brush while rinsing with clean water to remove dirt and residues.
  • Remove and discard the outer leaves of lettuce and cabbage heads, and thoroughly rinse the rest of the leaves.
  • Rinse berries and other small fruits thoroughly and allow them to drain in a colander.

Many nutrients and minerals in root vegetables are close to the surface, and therefore can be lost through peeling the skin. However, the skin of root vegetables can also act as a sponge, absorbing pesticides and chemicals used in the growing process. If your veggies are grown organically, simply wash with warm water, scrubbing with a brush if necessary, and refrain from peeling. If you’re not sure you’ll like the taste or texture, experiment with leaving the peels on, or try peeling only half of the vegetable. Exceptions include celeriac, whose knobby, thick and dirty skin will need to be peeled. If your veggies are conventionally grown and/or have been given a waxy coating by the produce company (usually turnips and rutabagas), then remove peels.

Wash your greens by placing them in a large bowl, pot, bucket or sink filled with water, and swish them around, allowing the dirt and sand to sink to the bottom. You may have to repeat this process.

(I made fresh spinach last night and cleaned it in my sink.  You can just about see all the dirt that came off in the sink)

Remember that the fruits and vegetables you buy may look clean when you pick them out at the grocery store, but you can’t see bacteria or chemicals. They still need to be washed before you eat them or serve them to guests or family members. This is especially important for produce and greens that are eaten raw.

♥ Terri  ♥♥

Happiness is a Clean Fridge

Looking through the fridge this morning trying to find I-don’t-know-what, I said to myself; well, out loud actually, ‘I really need to clean this fridge.’

Even if you tend to keep a clean kitchen, not being vigilant about cleaning the shelves, doors and drawers in your refrigerator could make it a source of potentially sickening substances.

Studies have shown that many consumers don’t even think about how to organize a fridge when putting away groceries, rarely even clean them and sometimes continue to use food that’s well past its prime.  All of that could mean that you and your family are unwittingly ingesting bacteria.

It may be more pleasant not to think about it, but juices and sticky substances lingering in your fridge could be getting into your fresh food.  About a third of consumers don’t clean their fridge before filling it with more groceries, according to a survey of 2,571 by home appliance maker Whirlpool. That could make your fresh foods go bad more quicky, so if you see or feel something moldy, gooey or sticky, wipe it up!

I know it’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.  Cleaning the fridge is a good thing but can also be a bad thing especially when you come across something you can’t identify or when an opened container of cottage cheese has turned a lovely shade of emerald green and has grown fur!

How your fridge is organized can be key to food safety since temperatures can vary in different areas. Yet 27% of consumers surveyed reported randomly putting groceries wherever they’d fit in the fridge, the Whirlpool report found.

Refrigerator-maker Sub-Zero observed customers habits when putting away chilled items and also saw some potentially nasty habits, the Journal adds.

As one might assume, the crisper drawers in your fridge are meant for fruits and vegetables. Temperature and humidity are actually regulated in these drawers to keep produce fresher longer, yet Sub-Zero observations found that some people tend to put meat and soda cans in the crisper drawers.

Refrigerator doors aren’t a good place to put your milk, even though it fits there perfectly. The door is the warmest place in your fridge according to food safety officials and if left in the door, your milk may spoil faster and could attract bacteria which can grow quickly if it’s not colder than 40F/5C, the Journal reports. Eggs shouldn’t be stored in the door either.

The temperature of your fridge should always be below 40 degrees. Bacteria can grow rapidly on food stored between 40F and 140F (5C-63C), a so-called danger zone, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. The agency suggests buying a thermometer, and keeping it in the warmest area of your fridge.

Obviously a fridge belonging to a student or batchelor

Even if you’re not a food hoarder, having too much food in the fridge can lead to food safety concerns. If a fridge is too packed, there may not be enough cold air circulating to keep your food at a safe temperature.

Refrigerators should be checked for spoiled food at least once a week, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Shelves and drawers can be cleaned one at a time and the dirtiest part of the fridge, below the bottom drawers, should be thoroughly cleaned as well, the Journal says.

You may want to schedule your next fridge cleaning for the day before you go grocery shopping so that you don’t have to take out and leave out chilled items for too long.

Take out everything in your fridge and throw out anything moldy or old, especially if an expiration date has long since passed, suggests Health.com. Next, scrub down all the removable parts like shelves and drawers as well as all of the inside and outside surfaces, especially door handles.

The plastic parts inside your refrigerator may be damaged with hot water, bleach or other household cleaners, so check the manual that came with your fridge. If you don’t have it anymore, you may be able to find one online on the manufacturer’s Web site.

If you can’t get the manual, Health.com also suggests using warm water and mild soap to wipe down shelves and drawers, then rinse them with warm water and dry them with a cloth.

To absorb any funky smells, open a box of baking soda and put it in the middle of your fridge. (And DON’T use this for cooking.  When changing over to a new box, pour the used one down the kitchen drain to keep it smelling fresh)

Some scientists say that activated charcoal is more effective than baking soda, however, so if you tend to keep especially stinky foods, like cheeses, in your fridge, the charcoal might be a better option for you.

Not surprisingly, fresh lunch meats and cheeses should go in the deli meat drawer (if you have one) and raw meat should generally be kept on the bottom shelf since juices can drip from their packaging and could end up on fruits and vegetables, or other products that you may not heat up, the Journal says.  Place meats and fish on a plate or in a bowl to help prevent drips even on the bottom shelf…it’s less to clean up.

Remember, E. coli could be present in meat even if you don’t get sick from it since it’s killed when meat is properly cooked. Drip trays, drawers, shelves and the bottom of your fridge should be cleaned regularly.

Vegetables should be kept in the crisper.  You may forget that you have veggies in the fridge if you keep them in a crisper drawer, especially if it’s not transparent, but if you clean out your fridge on a regular basis, you’ll be less likely to forget about what you have in there.

Americans clean out their refrigerators so rarely that there’s a designated National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day.  Several Web sites have taken the day as an opportunity to post pictures of some of the worst-kept fridges, but we hope that these help convince consumers to start cleaning them out regularly, and by that we don’t mean once a year.

“Molds have branches and roots that are like very thin threads. The roots may be difficult to see when the mold is growing on food and may be very deep in the food,” says the USDA.

And fresh foods don’t need to be touching moldy foods for the mold to be spread to them.  When spores are dry, they become airborne in order to reach the nearest and best conditions, according to the USDA.

Condiments generally aren’t meant to last in the fridge for years.  In fact, “most will stay fresh for two months on the door of the refrigerator,” according to MedicineNet.com.

The refrigerator door is an appropriate place to store condiments, since the acids they tend to contain help them resist contamination by bacteria, but for the best quality, the site suggests using them within a few months.

Office refrigerators can be the most offensive and the most hazardous to your health, especially if no one is designated to clean it every now and then.

Last year, one San Jose, Calif. office fridge containing rotting food was so noxious that it sent seven office workers to the hospital with nausea and vomiting, according to reports from local television station KTVU.  It was so bad that a HAZMAT team was called to evacuate 325 people from the office building.

The HAZMAT fridge incident appears to have been caused by the stuffed refrigerator being unplugged for too long, causing the food to decompose.

If the power in your home goes out, or your fridge is accidentally unplugged, your food can be kept safely for about four hours if it’s not opened, according to the USDA.  If it’s opened, cool air will escape and raise the temperature inside the fridge. Food in a full freezer can last about 48 hours if unopened, the USDA says.

So remember to clean your fridge regularly,

as a clean fridge is a happy fridge!

My happy fridge!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

♥♥ Terri ♥♥