Most of us have an overly idealized notion of what "natural" means.
Imagine shopping at a beautiful farmers market, selecting a tomato so fresh you can almost smell the sunshine it grew in, chatting with the farmer when you pay for it. In this scenario, you would never imagine that tomato is dirty—you could take a big ol' bite right then and there. It's all natural, right?
Sure—but that doesn't necessarily mean it's clean. And that's exactly why washing every fruit and vegetable you bring into your kitchen is crucial to your health.
Conventionally farmed fruits and veggies are often coated in pesticides. Even if you buy organic, you don't know what dirt or bacteria those strawberries have been exposed to, or how many times they've been manhandled in the supermarket before you get your hands on them.
No matter what, the Food and Drug Administration recommends washing all fruits and vegetables thoroughly before cooking or eating them. The one notable exception to this rule is pre-washed, prepackaged salad greens; cleaning them again is unnecessary, and can actually expose the delicate lettuce leaves to more bacteria.
But how exactly are you supposed to wash them? Plain water can be very effective—the method removed the majority of bacteria in this test.
If (like us) you require a bit more thorough method for your own sanity, try a DIY vegetable rinse. A simple mixture of one part white vinegar to three parts water is super effective. Spritz all over the produce, then rinse off with cold water for best results. A 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar or hydrogen peroxide diluted in a sink full of cold water also works.
And then there are the commercial veggie washes also on the market. Though most people maintain these washes are no better than water at removing pesticides and dirt, manufacturers say their products can also remove wax and other chemicals that aren't water soluble.
Photo credit: Alicia Cho