Your low impact produce wash guide

Aug 30, 2018 | by Hawnuh Lee

DIY produce wash illustration

I’ve learned that buying local / loose produce at the farmer’s market or grocery store inevitably comes with a bit of grime. Roots tangled up in dirt clods, things I keep dropping on the ground, and a range of stranger’s hands my produce has passed through to get to me. I have somewhat of an obsessive contamination-oriented mind. It’s a blessing and a curse. So I think a lot about where food has been, how it’s traveled and who’s tended to it lovingly (besides myself.) This state of mind inspired quite a bit of research into a DIY, low impact produce wash! Even your cleaning products should be making a sustainable effort pals. 

I’m also an advocate for a root to stem practice in my (and your!) kitchen – I aim to make the most of all parts of the plant, including the skin. Most outer fruit and vegetable exteriors tend to get discarded but actually contain a ton of nutrients and flavor! I’d like to take a moment to apologize to my mother who taught me this as a child and put up with me peeling carrots when she was turned around to look more like the conventional versions I’d see in restaurants or my friend’s parents cooking. Mom, you were right. <3

Root to stem food

Apple peels, sweet potato skins, carrot tops, curly leaf kale, all dirty dudes, all nutritious, and worth a good wash. Taking on this ethos of using every part of your produce requires a little bit more preparation. Excess dirt and surprise insect friends can hide in irregular crevices or textures and make for a gritty mouth experience. What a weird phrase that was, yech. The point is, all of those extra delicious, unconventional parts of your produce need a little TLC to reach their full flavor potential.

I try to buy organic / local when possible to avoid any extra chemical residue that might otherwise eat. But in situations when this isn’t possible, removing a waxy or damaged skin from your produce is probably the better bet. Even organic produce has some degree of contaminants and a sustainable cleaning process ensures your fruits and veggies are ready to eat and last longer. Getting in the habit of washing your produce as soon as you get home from the store or market makes it super easy to use it later throughout the week. You can learn more about smart storage options in this recent interview with Celia Ristow from Litterless!

The easy low impact produce wash

You don’t need any sort of fancy cleaning solution, especially not ones packaged in excess plastic that you end up tossing anyways. The secret is baking soda! Also known as sodium bicarbonate, this alkaline powder does an amazing job of removing excess grime and residual pesticides. An alkaline compound actually destabilizes most pesticides, making the act of washing your produce much more effective. Best of all, baking soda is an awesome low cost, low impact alternative for clean eats! It’s way better to wash this down the drain than most other commercial dish detergents that are usually dyed, scented, and in a plastic bottle. I buy baking soda in a cute lil cardboard box and it lasts for a few months.

  1. Gather all fruits and veggies (it’s helpful to do everything at once to make it easier to pull out of the fridge for later use) and a large bowl.
  2. Fill bowl with cool water about halfway.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons of baking soda to bowl and mix to combine.
  4. Add in produce, make sure all pieces are fully submerged, and let sit for 12 – 15 minutes.
  5. Using a dedicated produce scrub or clean dish towel, scrub and rinse off produce and repeat steps 4 and 5 as needed. (I use the same solution for all of my produce at one time to do a batch wash.)

It’s that easy!

Any of this a-peeling? 😀 Let us know if you give this a go! #closedloopcooking

Stay hungry,
Hawnuh Lee
Closed Loop Cooking


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