A quick and dirty guide
Show of hands—do you wash your fruit? All of it? Always? And what’s your reasoning behind it? Is it to remove dirt and grit, remove bacteria and pesticides, or just because you were taught to do it that way and never found a reason not to? All totally valid reasons for washing fruit! But you can always do better. Some fruit just needs to be rinsed, some fruit should be scrubbed—but how do you know which fruits, with what liquid, and oh gosh, are you expected to dry it afterward? Follow these simple tips for washing fruit and live happily, healthily and, uh, fruitfully.
The matter at hand
You can scrub your fruit into infinity, but if you haven’t washed your hands—not to mention any knives, cutting boards, or other implements—you’re pretty much just wasting your energy. The Food and Drug Administration recommends washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after handling produce. Knives, cutting surfaces, and the like should be washed with soap and hot water, especially if you’re planning on eating the fruit raw. And if you can swing it, it’s a great idea to keep separate cutting boards for produce and raw meat.
Skin in the game
Even if you’re not planning to eat the fruit’s skin (say, a banana, citrus or melon), the FDA advises that you still wash it to avoid transferring bacteria from the outside to the delicious edible parts.
There’s the scrub
Most fruit just needs to be rinsed in running water, possibly with a colander. It might seem efficient to soak fruit in a sink or bowl, but then it’s just swimming around in its own filth. No matter where you got the fruit—a store, farmstand, or your own backyard—it should still be rinsed to remove any contaminants from the soil, environment, or random incontinent animals. Resist the urge to use soap, detergent, or commercial produce wash; the FDA says they’re not necessary.
They do, however, advise scrubbing firm produce—like melons—with a clean produce brush, and all cleaned produce should be dried with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce the presence of bacteria.
What’s in store
Even if you buy pre-washed or pre-cut fruit, it’s crucial to make sure that it doesn’t come in contact with contaminated surfaces before you serve or eat it. If it does, just rinse and rally.