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Thoughts on Veggie Wash


Fat Guy
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This is all very interesting to me -- I can recall P&G trying to market a "fruit and vegetable wash" product. Both times it either tanked or just didn't sell well enough for them to keep producing. Most recently Michel Nischan was in the ads. Fit was the name, I think, and it claimed to also brighten green vegetables. Lemon oil was an ingredient, which I guess would brighten the green.

I've always used water with salt for vegetables and water with baking soda for fruits. When I feel like something is really dirty, I just put a few drops of Ivory dishwashing liquid in (the original stuff). Never tried Palmolive for anything but my nails :wink:

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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Reading through this thread, I thought I remembered seeing something on TV about the use of vinegar to clean produce. With a little searching, I came up with this:

What NOT to Use

Although fruit and vegetable processing plants routinely use chlorine as an effective antimicrobial agent in their produce washing operations, the amounts used and timing are carefully controlled to ensure safety. For consumers, use of detergent or laundry bleach for cleansing fruits and vegetables is highly risky. Fruits and vegetables are porous and can absorb the soap or bleach, which are not approved or labeled by the Foods and Drug Administration for use on foods. Therefore, these products should NEVER be recommended for home use in cleaning foods.

The whole article, from the Colorado State University cooperative extension, is here , and, it you scroll down, laboratory tests with vinegar and/or lemon juice prove to be fairly effective.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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All pesticides are water soluble, and wash off in the rain.

I have no first-hand knowledge, however the statement I quoted above said:

Pesticides and other agricultural chemicals are specifically engineered to be "waterproof" so that they are not washed off by rain and irrigation.

You can find dozens of variants of this statement with a simple search online. Whether it's true or not is another story.

Not that I care. Pesticides are not really my main concern here. I've eaten enough pesticide-treated produce in my life to establish that pesticides are either harmless or I'll be dead soon. My concern is with flavor, and with filth. It seems to me that produce washed with the aid of produce wash simply tastes better, and it's surely cleaner.

Mitch, I don't think "detergent or laundry bleach" includes dish soap. I think detergent means dishwasher detergent, as opposed to the stuff you use to hand-wash dishes. If you look on a bottle of dish soap, there's no warning except to keep it out of your eyes and away from children -- the same warning that appears on the produce wash bottle.

Sam, I used a large mixing bowl full of lukewarm water, and a quick, tiny squirt of Palmolive.

I'm sure the solution of using an unscented, flavorless, eco-friendly dish soap is a valid one, however such products aren't really any cheaper than produce wash. So the only advantage is that you can do everything with one produce -- if you want to use $6.99 bottles of dish soap to do your dishes.

It seems to me that the salient physical property of dishes is that they're for all intents and purposes non-porous. Even ones with rough textures tend to have a glaze on them. So as long as you're not washing them with glue, you should be able to rinse all the soap residue off them quite well. The same should go for an apple or a lemon -- those surfaces are relatively impenetrable and slick. If, however, you're dealing with something rough, soft and porous like a peach or a raspberry, it seems to me you're going to be stuck with some residue. That's the point at which I'd probably prefer not to eat too much Palmolive. Not that I think it will harm me in such small amounts. It's just that it tastes like soap.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I'm sure the solution of using an unscented, flavorless, eco-friendly dish soap is a valid one, however such products aren't really any cheaper than produce wash. So the only advantage is that you can do everything with one produce -- if you want to use $6.99 bottles of dish soap to do your dishes.

Well, I'm thinking more like the fact that the $6.99 unscented, flavorless, eco-friendly dish soap costs only around twice as much as a bottle of Veggie Wash and contains something like a thousand times more vegetable washes, considering that Veggie Wash recommends a quarter-cup of Veggie Wash to a gallon of water and you'd use the other stuff a drop at a time (or possibly even less).

Even using the comparison of Dawn or Palmolive, it's possible that we're just not diluting the dish soap enough (your "tiny squirt of Palmolive in a large mixing bowl" is already less dilute than what I was doing). My theory is that Veggie Wash is probably nothing more than unscented, flavorless, eco-friendly dish soap diluted in lots of water, and that we should be able to make our own Veggie Wash equivalent at home for a minute fraction of the price.

If, however, you're dealing with something rough, soft and porous like a peach or a raspberry, it seems to me you're going to be stuck with some residue. That's the point at which I'd probably prefer not to eat too much Palmolive. Not that I think it will harm me in such small amounts. It's just that it tastes like soap.

Yea. I think that's the major barrier to using common dish soap on soft and/or porous foods: the soapy taste. Although it may be possible to eliminate this problem if the soap is sufficiently diluted, and certain formulations may not have this problem.

I also wonder whether, for these foods, it might not just be better to keep a big jug of RealLemon lemon juice in the refrigerator and dilute that in some water as a wash for these foods instead of using Veggie Wash.

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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I think detergent means dishwasher detergent, as opposed to the stuff you use to hand-wash dishes. If you look on a bottle of dish soap, there's no warning except to keep it out of your eyes and away from children -- the same warning that appears on the produce wash bottle.

handwashing dish soap is actually detergent. not that this automatically means much; any mix of chemical surfacants (as opposed to natural fat-based soap) is called detergent. i imagine some detergents are much nastier than others.

dishwasher detergent has a lot of stuff besides surfacants in it that you don't want on or in your body--like powerful alkaline chemicals and bleaches.

Notes from the underbelly

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I'm sure the solution of using an unscented, flavorless, eco-friendly dish soap is a valid one, however such products aren't really any cheaper than produce wash. So the only advantage is that you can do everything with one produce -- if you want to use $6.99 bottles of dish soap to do your dishes.

Well, I'm thinking more like the fact that the $6.99 unscented, flavorless, eco-friendly dish soap costs only around twice as much as a bottle of Veggie Wash and contains something like a thousand times more vegetable washes, considering that Veggie Wash recommends a quarter-cup of Veggie Wash to a gallon of water and you'd use the other stuff a drop at a time (or possibly even less).

Plus, if you are used to using scented dish detergent, maybe you can't taste it, but if you ever have guests who don't use it, they might taste it. I know I can. Perhaps it depends on how well you rinse, but there have been a couple of times when I've been completely overwhelmed by it. The worst was a bowl of oatmeal at my neigbor's that tasted exactly like a bowl of Dawn. So maybe you factor in the intangible savings of not risking having your meals taste Mountain Fresh.

This sounds ripe for a scientific eGullet evaluation!

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I think detergent means dishwasher detergent, as opposed to the stuff you use to hand-wash dishes. If you look on a bottle of dish soap, there's no warning except to keep it out of your eyes and away from children -- the same warning that appears on the produce wash bottle.

handwashing dish soap is actually detergent. not that this automatically means much; any mix of chemical surfacants (as opposed to natural fat-based soap) is called detergent. i imagine some detergents are much nastier than others.

dishwasher detergent has a lot of stuff besides surfacants in it that you don't want on or in your body--like powerful alkaline chemicals and bleaches.

Right. Detergent is just a cleaning surfactant that is not soap. For sure Veggie Wash includes detergent. The list of ingredients includes:

  • water -- I think this is the main ingredient
  • "natural cleaners made from corn and coconut" -- aka ammonium lauryl/laureth sulfate (most regular dish soaps use sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate, but ammonium lauryl/laureth sulfate are detergents which are commonly used in some of the "less gentle" shampoo formulations)
  • lemon oil
  • sodium citrate -- this is a common food additive used to provide a tart taste in soft drinks like Sprite (most likely included, along with the lemon oil, to mask any potentially soapy flavors with "lemony/tart" flavors)
  • glycerin -- increases soap bubbling, etc.
  • grapefruit seed extract -- unproven, but held by some to have antibacterial and antifungal properties

The rub is the ammonium lauryl/laureth sulfate. Detergent all the way, just sneakily listed as "natural cleaners made from corn and coconut."

All pesticides are water soluble, and wash off in the rain.

I have no first-hand knowledge, however the statement I quoted above said:

Pesticides and other agricultural chemicals are specifically engineered to be "waterproof" so that they are not washed off by rain and irrigation.

This strikes me as a somewhat dubious claim, considering that water contamination is a major criticism of pesticide use. I think it's true that they are designed so that they have some staying power, but the EPA says solubility of 30 parts per million or lower is better, which is far from "waterproof."

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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I'm pretty sure the "dish liquid"/"dish soap" products like Palmolive and Dawn are not typically referred to as "detergent." Not a full survey, but the two brands I have here (Palmolive and Ivory) don't say "detergent" on the bottle, whereas Cascade (for dishwashers) does. There may be a scientific basis for saying some of the ingredients qualify as detergents, but I'm thinking that's not what Mitch's quote ("For consumers, use of detergent or laundry bleach for cleansing fruits and vegetables is highly risky"), to which I was replying, meant.

I don't know how one would determine relative concentration. I don't think the 2-ounce recommendation is much of an indicator, since we don't know the recommendation for an equivalent dish liquid from the same manufacturer and manufacturers of such products notoriously over-prescribe them -- for all we know they recommend an entire bottle of dish soap to clean a plate. I certainly have never used anything near 2 ounces at a time -- these products come in spray bottles and I use a couple of sprays; it takes months to go through a bottle. I'm guessing dish soap is more concentrated, but perhaps not "a thousand times more."

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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The whole article, from the Colorado State University cooperative extension,  is here ...

Nice find, Mitch. Here are some quotes I found relevant:

Several studies have looked at the effectiveness of produce washes. In most cases the produce washes have been found to be "equally effective or "slightly better" than tap or distilled water in removing microbes and pesticide resides. For example, in a study conducted at University of California-Riverside, one group of produce was washed with plain tap water, the second rinsed with both water and produce wash, and the third was not rinsed at all. The combined treatment of produce wash followed by water rinse reduced surface pesticide residues by 6% more than the water alone method, a difference too minor in the researcher's opinion to justify the purchase price of a produce wash.

This article says that produce washes are as good "as good a job as chlorinated water and sometimes better" at reducing pathogenic microorganisms from produce, and one researcher says he would recommend Fit "if you are concerned about pathogenic microorganisms on your produce."

As for pesticides:

"In the United States, there's very little produce with pesticide residues anywhere near the allowed tolerance levels," said Elizabeth Andress, an Extension Service food safety specialist with the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences. "It would be hard to find detectable levels of pesticide residues on our fruits and vegetables even if you went looking for them."

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Are more people concerned with pesticide residue, dirt or pathogens? Because it seems to me after reading the "literature," that lemon juice or vinegar and a good healthy rinse are all you really need to clean your produce.

And how dirty is the stuff you're buying? As for me, I'd say 75% of the produce I buy is either called organic or is grown via integrated pest management. I don't buy waxed cucumbers and I try to avoid commercially grown apples - when I do need them for cooking, they're always peeled after rinsing, hopefully ridding them of any nasties.

This past weekend I made a curried cauliflower and apple soup; the organic cauliflower I bought at the greenmarket was quite dirty - so I cut it apart and rinsed and rinsed (even found a caterpillar in there- as the organic farmers tell me, if the bugs like it, it must be good!) - and then I had nice, clean, delicious cauliflower florets...no need for soap there!

So, is Veggie Wash and liquid soap overkill or what?!

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I don't know how one would determine relative concentration. I don't think the 2-ounce recommendation is much of an indicator, since we don't know the recommendation for an equivalent dish liquid from the same manufacturer and manufacturers of such products notoriously over-prescribe them -- for all we know they recommend an entire bottle of dish soap to clean a plate. I certainly have never used anything near 2 ounces at a time -- these products come in spray bottles and I use a couple of sprays; it takes months to go through a bottle. I'm guessing dish soap is more concentrated, but perhaps not "a thousand times more."

"A thousand times" was hyperbole, of course, but let's do the math:

At around a quarter-teaspoon in five gallons of water. That's the approximate concentration I've used of Dawn dishwashing liquid in my sink, and we can probably use less than that. Clearly one uses very small amounts of detergent in doing this kind of thing.

The organic dishwashing liquid to which I linked upthread costs six bucks for a quart, and as far as I can tell contains essentially the exact same ingredients as Veggie Wash in more concentrated form. A quart contains 192 teaspoons. That would make 768 kitchen sinks full (3840 gallons) of vegetable washing water. Environne Fruit & Vegetable wash costs around six bucks for a pint, and you're not going to be doling that stuff out at a quarter ounce per five gallons. Veggie Wash is around four bucks for a pint-sized spray bottle. Let's say you use two squirts of this stuff (around a half-teaspoon) per gallon of water. One bottle is going to get you 32 gallons of vegetable wash, which means that the other stuff will give you 120 times more vegetable washing water. Even if you use a quarter teaspoon of Veggie Wash per gallon of water, the organic detergent will give you five times more gallons of vegetable washing water.

So, is Veggie Wash and liquid soap overkill or what?!

There's certainly some question in my mind as to whether there is any benefit to be gained from having the produce that "clean." I say "clean" in quotations because it seems clear to me that, in some instances, we're trading residues of dirt and minute traces of pesticides for residues of the vegetable washing surfactant. If harmful bacteria counts are high enough to make me sick, I don't see how these produce washes are going to reduce those counts enough to make a difference. After all, it's not like everyone would have been just fine if only the workers at Taco Bell had dumped their scallions into sinksfull of water with Veggie Wash. And, for me, I guess I'd rather have a tiny bit more undetectable dirt on my raspberries than adulterate them with a mild lemony flavor (or, worse yet, soapy). Honestly, I don't understand why we're so afraid of a little dirt. I can see that it makes sense to get rid of coatings on fruits and whatnot. I wash citrus, for example, because I want to be able to get the oils out better. But I've never felt the need to exhaustively wash broccoli I'm getting ready to cook beyond getting off any immediately apparent dirt -- and a quick splash under the tap is usually all that is required for that.

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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We simply don't know the relative concentration of the products. I'm sure there's a way to measure that, but multiplication of guesses isn't it.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Cook's Illustrated did some lab lests on this recently, and their results (a diluted vinegar solution wins by a mile) were featured on NPR.

The folks at Cook's Illustrated are not the first to document the effectiveness of acidic washes. Researchers at the Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at Tennessee State University tested dilute vinegar against plain water and a commercial product called Veggie Wash that they purchased at a grocery store.

"We really did not really find the veggie washes effective or necessary," says Sandria Godwin, who oversaw the project.

NPR/Veggie washes

Edited by kiliki (log)
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We simply don't know the relative concentration of the products. I'm sure there's a way to measure that, but multiplication of guesses isn't it.

Okay. But it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the Veggie Wash is more expensive, or that the organic dish soap is considerably more concentrated. Even if they are the exact same concentration -- which surely you must concede is not the case -- the organic dish soap sells for 19 cents an ounce whereas Veggie Wash sells for 25 cents an ounce.

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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That sounds right to me.

In terms of the tests that have been done, I confess the results are really surprising to me. My anecdotal observations have been so firmly in favor of the superiority of veggie wash (or any kind of soap/detergent, I guess) over plain water that I just can't comprehend the claim that it's no better than water.

In the end, double-blind studies trump my perception, but I have to wonder what the studies are studying, what they're trying to prove, whether they're double-blind, etc. In some cases, for example the NPR citation of Cook's Illustrated, the tests seem off target -- as far as I can tell from the citation Cook's Illustrated tested four ways of washing produce and produce wash was not one of them. Someone else let me know how you read it. Also, they seem to have focused only on bacteria.

Here's the anecdotal theory: when I buy an apple at the supermarket, it's coated with all kinds of stuff. It has been waxed and it's dirty. When I rinse it under water, a lot of that stuff stays on. When I use a produce wash product, it really seems to come off and I get down to the actual, clean apple skin. The apple tastes better and it's cleaner. Maybe the science says otherwise, but that's what I think I'm seeing.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I agree with Steven that it seems like something comes off of, e.g., apple and citrus skins if you use some kind of surfactant. I haven't tried the vinegar trick, though, and I also find that regular old Dawn liquid works just fine without any appreciable residue or off-flavor remaining. I generally feel this is true for produce that is coated. As for other things... I've just never felt that things like peaches, raspberries and broccoli would benefit from any more cleaning than I can do with regular old water.

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\

Here's the anecdotal theory: when I buy an apple at the supermarket, it's coated with all kinds of stuff. It has been waxed and it's dirty. When I rinse it under water, a lot of that stuff stays on. When I use a produce wash product, it really seems to come off and I get down to the actual, clean apple skin. The apple tastes better and it's cleaner. Maybe the science says otherwise, but that's what I think I'm seeing.

I agree. I'm not all that concerned about bacteria. I mostly want to remove the yucky wax from my peppers, apples, cucumbers and so forth. Peppers especially are often coated in a wax that tastes really strongly like a petroleum product (why??), and cucumbers are often slick with greasy wax. I just use full-strength Planet liquid on those.

Science schmience. I know what I know: Waxy produce isn't yummy.

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Dianabanana, I don't think the studies were evaluating the products' effectiveness at getting rid of waxy coatings. I agree that something more than water is needed to get rid of the coating. Although, of course, one can just buy uncoated produce -- but depending on time of year and location, that can be difficult.

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http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-Fact/5000/5353.html

This link pretty basically covers it .

I peel fruits that are non-organic and wash my hands after peeling a non-organic banana , etc. Viner or soap wahs removes alot though .

I try to buy organic but have a hard time with the super cost of it . But since I have a 7 year old , I have to bother with alot of things , I normally would just blow off . The non-organic fruit producers, seeing how much $$ is going to organic farmers , push them to convert to less spray or to organic . The more $$ there is in organic , the more producers will lea towards that .

So I use my $$ to sort of vote not so much for organic but for NOT polluting our fields and streams with poisons . We all know this is so and feel helpless to do anything about it . All the Round Up and pesticides and insecticides sprayed anywhere winds up in our water supply - and for that reason alone - one should use ones precious $$ to push for change in food supplies . It is the least I can do for my 7 year old who deserves clean water when she is an adult . It is hard for city people to conceive the amount of spraying and chemicals that go into food , but the good news is that the word os getting out there thru places like e-gullett !!

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Just to put things in perspective on the idea of removing noxious stuff from fruit and vegetables, the FDA have determined acceptable levels of “natural or unavoidable defects that present no health hazards for humans” for a variety of foodstuffs.

“The FDA set these action levels because it is economically impractical to grow, harvest, or process raw products that are totally free of non-hazardous, naturally occurring, unavoidable defects”

Here are a few random examples:

APPLE BUTTER

Mold - Average of mold count is 12% or more

Rodent filth - Average of 4 or more rodent hairs per 100 grams of apple butter

Insects - Average of 5 or more whole or equivalent insects (not counting mites, aphids, thrips, or scale insects) per 100 grams of apple butter.

CORN: SWEET CORN, CANNED

Insect larvae - Insect larvae (corn ear worms, corn borers) 2 or more 3mm or longer larvae, cast skins, larval or cast skin fragments of corn ear worms or corn borer and the aggregate length of such larvae, cast skins, larval or cast skin fragments exceeds 12 mm in 24 pounds (24 No. 303 cans or equivalent)

CORNMEAL

Insects - Average of 1 or more whole insects (or equivalent) per 50 grams

Insect filth - Average of 25 or more insect fragments per 25 grams

Rodent filth - Average of 1 or more rodent hairs per 25 grams

OR

Average of 1 or more rodent excreta fragment per 50 grams

MACARONI AND NOODLE PRODUCTS

Insect filth - Average of 225 insect fragments or more per 225 grams in 6 or more subsamples Rodent filth - Average of 4.5 rodent hairs or more per 225 grams in 6 or more subsamples

PEANUT BUTTER

Insect filth - Average of 30 or more insect fragments per 100 grams

Rodent filth - Average of 1 or more rodent hairs per 100 grams

POPCORN

Rodent filth - 1 or more rodent excreta pellets are found in 1 or more subsamples, and 1 or more rodent hairs are found in 2 or more other subsamples

OR

2 or more rodent hairs per pound and rodent hair is found in 50% or more of the subsamples

OR

20 or more gnawed grains per pound and rodent hair is found in 50% or more of the subsamples

WHEAT FLOUR

Insect filth - Average of 75 or more insect fragments per 50 grams

Rodent filth - Average of 1 or more rodent hairs per 50 grams

You don’t get much more “natural” than rodent excreta and insect filth, now do you?

So – there could be (and probably are) a couple of acceptable rodent hairs in that flour you just used to make that delicious chocolate cake.

Happy Feasting

Janet (a.k.a The Old Foodie)

My Blog "The Old Foodie" gives you a short food history story each weekday day, always with a historic recipe, and sometimes a historic menu.

My email address is: theoldfoodie@fastmail.fm

Anything is bearable if you can make a story out of it. N. Scott Momaday

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Another thing that's probably more important than the kind of surfactant you might use is very simple- contact time. The longer you wash or rinse, the more of everything you will get off it. When we added chemicals to the farm equipment, we would triple rinse the bottles. Triple rinsing is also a generic lab standard for getting things clean. So if you are really concerned, allow your food to soak for a while to allow the water soluble things time to dissolve- then rinse them several times.

Just some more food for thought.

Oh- and to get the wax off, you need to use HOT water and a fairly long contact time. Personally, I don't think it's worth it.

Any dish you make will only taste as good as the ingredients you put into it. If you use poor quality meats, old herbs and tasteless winter tomatoes I don’t even want to hear that the lasagna recipe I gave you turned out poorly. You're a cook, not a magician.

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A couple of things about wax:

First, organic produce is often waxed too. It's just waxed with organic wax. You can go into any Whole Foods and this is explained on a sign by the produce section, or at least it was last time I checked. (It's also a common misconception that organic produce is never treated with pesticides. It can be. The pesticides just have to be organic.)

Second, it has not been my experience that hot water is necessary. For example, when I wash a single apple I normally don't fill a bowl with water. Rather, I turn on the cold water, run the apple quickly under the water, spray it with a spray of produce wash, rub the produce wash over the whole surface of the apple with my hands, then rinse under running water while rubbing with my hands. It takes only a few seconds longer than rinsing without produce wash. And it seems to me that this gets the apple very clean of wax -- at least that's how it feels -- whereas simply rinsing with water doesn't do very much. Sure, whatever chemical reaction is occurring will occur faster when the water is warmer, but cold water plus produce wash seems sufficient.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Thanks all for an interesting thread. I use a drop or two of biodegradable dish soap in a big mixing bowl full of water to soak my cauli, broccoli and similar. Smooth skin veggies get rinsed (and brushed if visibly dirty). Leafy veggies just get rinsed and spun.

I think I'm going to try the vinegar solution instead of the soapy soak... bacteria being my primary concern.

MT

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Matt T

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