The arrival of fresh strawberries is probably at the top of the list of things to anticipate this summer. What could be sweeter than biting into a perfectly ripe ruby red fruit for the first time? Nothing, with the exception of a refreshing strawberry smoothie, a taste of jammy strawberry shortcake, or another fresh, seasonal strawberry recipe. While modern agriculture has made the most popular berry in the United States available throughout the year, they are never more delicious than when they are in season.
Strawberries, on the other hand, are at the top of another less desired list: the Dirty Dozen. This comes from the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) yearly report on produce with dangerously high pesticide residue levels. It is based on samples obtained by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as well as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The dirtiest of the dozen in 2021—and for the previous four years—is none other than the beloved strawberry.
Should You Wash Strawberries In The First Place?
Many people’s first inquiry regarding this topic is whether it is even essential. Simply put, unless you know your strawberries have been pre-washed and are pesticide-free, you must wash them.
The rationale for washing this is straightforward: to eliminate any contaminants and ensure that the strawberries are safe to consume. This is especially crucial with modern fruits and vegetables because you never know what chemicals they were cultivated with or what they’ve come into contact with during the manufacturing and transportation process. Strawberries, in fact, are at the top of the list when it comes to pesticides.
It’s hard to believe that strawberries have been found to contain more pesticide residue than any other type of produce in the United States—the University of Illinois estimates that strawberries are consumed by 94 percent of American households, and the average American eats about eight pounds of fresh strawberries per year—given their ubiquity. However, the manner strawberries are farmed, has a role in this reality.
Strawberry plants grow directly in the soil, which includes their own insecticides and nutrients, unlike most fruits that grow on vines or trees. Furthermore, several fruits that have been discovered to have lower pesticide residue levels, such as bananas and oranges, have a peel—built-in nature’s “packaging”—that helps shield the edible insides from contamination. Strawberries, on the other hand, do not have this luxury. Finally, strawberries are popular with bugs and other animals (we get it), which makes some farmers a little too eager to spray the fruit down. Of course, you may buy organic fruit to help ease some of these concerns.
When Is The Right Time To Wash Strawberries
Generally, strawberries should only be washed when they are ready to be used. When you acquire your strawberries, don’t wash them right away, and don’t wash them all at once.
This is for a very significant reason. Strawberries are particularly “spongy,” which means they absorb a lot of water and moisture. If you wash your strawberries too soon before using them, they will absorb too much moisture, become “mushy,” and spoil much sooner.
You’ll want to wash the strawberries shortly before eating or cooking with them if you want them to keep their firm, plump texture.
Two Time-Tested Methods To Wash Strawberries
When it comes to washing strawberries, you would be hard-pressed to beat the two most time-tested methods, i.e., washing them with salt and washing them with vinegar.
How To Wash Strawberries With Vinegar?
If you’re buying strawberries from the supermarket, and especially if they’ve been cultivated with pesticides, you’ll want to take a few extra measures before eating them. Strawberries are one of the most heavily sprayed conventional crops, and you want to limit the pesticides exposure you and your family get. Furthermore, your berries have been handled by numerous different people and exposed to various conditions along their journey from large farms to grocery store shelves. It goes without saying that taking a few extra times to make sure your fruit is spotless is well worth the effort.
Fill a big mixing basin with four parts water and one part white vinegar to remove excess filth and pesticides from the berries. Soak the berries in the vinegar wash for 20 minutes, making sure they are completely submerged in the basin. Rinse the fruit under cold water and blot dry with a cloth or paper towels. Don’t worry; there won’t be any vinegar left behind – only the sweet and tangy flavor of summers.
If you wish to go with an FDA approved method, it is as follows:
Place the berries in a colander. Then, you have to run them under cold water, gently massaging the fruit while you do so. Make sure you get every strawberry, stems and all, in the washing process. While you might be tempted to use soap or a produce wash, the FDA recommends only using water in your washing routine—after all, why add yet another chemical to your fruit’s life cycle? If your berries appear to be excessively unclean, soak them for a few minutes in a solution of one and a half cups of water and about a quarter cup vinegar, then rinse them thoroughly. Once washed, you need to dry the berries out, so there is no (minimal) moisture left before you put them away. A clean cloth or a paper towel might be good for the job. You can even put them out on a towel to hasten the drying process.
How To Wash Strawberries With Salt?
Another approach uses salt instead of vinegar and is also quite successful. Here’s how to go about it:
Prepare a salt solution with one teaspoon of salt per cup of warm water. Toss everything together in a big mixing dish. Allow 20 minutes for the mixture to settle before adding the berries. Soak the berries for about 5 minutes in a salt solution. Remove the berries, place them in a colander, and let them soak in cool water. Dry the berries with a paper towel before placing them on a paper towel bed.
After 5 minutes of drying, you’re ready to go.
Can Dishwasher Be Used To Wash Strawberries?
No. Dish soap, unlike the salt and vinegar methods, may be difficult to rinse off the strawberries. As a result, the product has a terrible flavor and may be harmful to consume.
According to Food Network, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not recommend washing fruits and vegetables with soap, detergent, or even a commercial produce wash intended exclusively for washing produce. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supports this guideline as well.
The FDA and the CDC both advise against washing fruits and vegetables with soaps, detergents, or commercial produce washes since residues can be left behind. While they may wash away pesticide residues, you will almost certainly swallow some of the soap or detergent. Because the FDA has not assessed the safety of swallowing such soapy residues, it advises against cleaning strawberries and other fruits and vegetables with them.
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