As summer reaches an end, we begin the exciting process of harvesting our overflowing gardens and using homegrown produce to make delicious meals and treats. Making these yummy goodies can be a fun way to taste the flavors of the season and to get healthy vitamins and minerals into our diets. Additionally, it is a great feeling knowing that the produce is coming straight to our kitchens from the ground, trees, vines and bushes in our own backyards. However, while enjoying the harvest season, keep in mind that it is always a good practice to ensure freshly picked produce is washed and handled safely before being consumed.
Let’s explore how to properly clean your produce & kitchen
Before picking your produce, you should prepare your kitchen by doing a deep clean. We typically think of spring cleaning, but it is important to keep your kitchen clean all year round and complete a deep clean several times a year.
Deep Clean Checklist
- A great practice to follow is to start from the top down. Look up and exam the ceiling, light bulbs, light fixtures, curtains, shelves, walls and anything else that is above your head. Begin by cleaning all of these items and pay special attention to anything that is old and may need to be replaced; for example a light fixture that is breaking and could fall.
- After you clean the areas above your head, look at everything within eye level and down to your ankles. This usually includes cabinets, refrigerator, microwave, stove, windows, counter tops, sink, and table. Pay special attention to items that you touch a lot but may not clean all the time. These could be items like door knobs, telephones, drawer pulls, refrigerator handle, and window pulls.
- Next, move your attention down to everything below your ankles. Look at your floors, baseboards, air vent for refrigerator and heating vents. These should be the last places you clean as you will drop debris on them when you clean the areas above.
Steps for Prepping Produce
- By taking the extra time to first clean your kitchen, you have prevented that space from contaminating the produce that you will bring into it. Speaking of produce, it is now time to concentrate on washing and handling your garden harvest.
- When handling produce, think about all of the steps it takes to get it from your garden and into your belly. When harvesting, look for items that are nice and ripe, not rotten or moldy. As you find these treasures throughout your garden, pick them and try to brush off visible soil.
- Next, bring your produce into the kitchen and place it into a bowl that is sitting in the sink. Take the container or bag that you transported the produce in back outside. This will help to keep all of the soil from the garden either in the sink or outside, which helps eliminate germs.
- All fresh produce should be washed, even when pulled from the security of your own garden. Begin by washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Then wash produce under cool (not cold) running water. Using this water, rub the produce briskly with your hands to remove dirt and germs that are on the surface. It can be helpful to use a produce brush to scrub items with harder skins or rinds. Do not use a chemical when washing produce, as they are porous and can absorb these chemicals.
Wash produce just before eating or preparing
- A good tip to remember when washing produce is to only wash the produce you will cook/eat in 1 meal setting. If you do not plan on eating the produce right away, wipe off as much visible soil as possible and store in the appropriate locations. This will help to keep the produce both fresh and safe from germs that like to grow in extra moisture.
- Following these tips will not only help you serve up a delicious, homegrown produce dish, but will also ensure that the final product is safe, as well as nutritious. Happy fall cleaning everyone!