True story: Standing in the Publix produce department, I once saw a rather haggard, middle-aged woman take an apple and rub it all over her face and neck then decide that wasn’t “the one” and put it back. She proceeded to test out the next apple. I don’t want to know what kind of relationship that woman has with fruit but… REALLY?
I’ve seen several people on the web say that produce wash is a waste of money and that the only thing you need to do is rinse your produce under running water. Really? Do you honestly think that water is going to wash off the added zest of Ms. I-Rub-My-Body-With-Produce? I fully realize that a mentally ill woman pleasuring herself with produce in the middle of the store is not all that common, but a simple splash under the tap is not going to solve common problems such as produce wax trapping pesticides and bacteria on your food, and surface germs from people who haven’t washed their hands. Produce was cannot remove all wax, remove all pesticide, or sterilize your food, but does significantly more that water alone. That said, I agree that the big problem is that $6 for a bottle of veggie wash is a complete rip off. So, I make my own.
¾ cup warm water
¼ cup vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda
a splash of lemon juice
You can store this solution, but I’m not sure for how long because we go through produce so fast. For hard produce like apples, zucchini, potatoes and the like, put the wash in a spray bottle and spray it directly on them. Then scrub them with a produce brush and rinse. For soft produce like strawberries, lettuce, and the like, soak them directly in the wash, rub gently with your hands or swish them around, and rinse. You may need to double or triple the the batch.
Why go through the trouble? First, because the majority of fruits and vegetables are coated with wax to keep them from rotting as they are transported an average of 1500 miles to your grocer. The wax that helps produce retain moisture, prolongs shelf life, and makes produce pretty also traps pesticides under it’s shiny surface. You’ll never be able to get rid of all of it, but the baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice will break up much of the wax and pesticides. Second, because people who don’t wash their hands have been molesting your produce in the grocery store. They sneeze into their hands and then feel up every apple in the store. Vinegar and lemon juice just happen to be natural anti-bacterials.
Another concern is that the was issue is a little more complicated than it looks. Yes, it traps pesticide, dirt and bacteria, but what kind of wax is it? If you’re lucky, it is carnauba wax or beeswax. It could be shellac which is the chemically processed secretion of specific insects such as the Kerria Lacca. If you’re really “lucky” it’s cheap petroleum-based waxes like paraffin wax, mineral oil or polyethylene. You can avoid many waxes by purchasing organic produce; however, organic produce comes with a high price tag. You are the only one who can weigh that cost decision. An even better option is to avoid wax altogether by purchasing local produce at a farm stand or farmer’s market from a farmer who is more than happy to answer your questions. An added perk is that produce tastes better when it doesn’t travel hundreds and thousands of miles to your table.