As the growing season approaches, we will no doubt be warned about tainted produce again. With the spinach recall of 2006, the culprit was finally assigned as hogs and rightly so... religious texts are full of references to the uncleanliness of hogs. Then several years ago the tomatoes were apparently poisonous, causing severe illness. What plants utilize from the soil goes directly into what they produce and so producers of the past were careful of what they applied to their crops. Today with much of our produce arriving from third world nations that are notoriously dirty, simple precautions must be taken to assure it is properly cleaned.
While watching a television special on fresh produce I noted workers were packaging strawberries in the plastic containers that arrive in the market while they were collecting in the field. Meaning that the strawberries arrive at the supermarket with whatever the worker had on his hands at the moment, and hopefully he did not have an illness. Additionally over the weekend I watched a television cooking show and noted the lady making the luscious cake did not wash either the strawberries or the blueberries she put between layers of whipped cream! Unfortunately many imagine that produce collected from the supermarket has been washed and sanitized before shipment. Try to assume produce is dirty upon arrival in the market; enjoy it after it has been properly washed under your own supervision.
Lettuce, tomatoes, squash and the like must be carefully washed, onions must be peeled, and celery and potatoes scrubbed with a vegetable brush, and so forth. Don’t wash off dirt…cut it out and toss it. My grandmother, an excellent cook and a thrifty lady, was an apparent recycler before her time. She used yesterday’s newspaper to peel into, then tossed it‘s folded contents in the trash.
Today, as in biblical times, we are warned not to use the same cutting board for meat and vegetables. Cooking kills much of the bacteria naturally occurring on meat but may be transferred to raw produce. We are encouraged to wash our hands between preparation of raw meat and vegetables as well. Wash the counter often and women are encouraged not to place their purses on the counter as purses are notoriously filthy on the bottom. (The very thought of what my purse has ‘seen’ makes me wince.)
With a little effort fresh produce may be confidently eaten and enjoyed for its wonderful health benefits. *Remember to plant potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day.