Fall is upon us! It’s time to start making that delicious apple pie or homemade soup with your favorite seasonal fruits and vegetables. With so many recipes to enjoy during this season, it is very important to make sure you keep your fall food clean and healthy. Take a look below and learn the importance of keeping your seasonal fruits and vegetables clean and safe to eat.
Eating a well-balanced diet that contains fruits and vegetables provides many health benefits and can help protect you from developing a stroke, heart disease, and even some cancers, which is why it is important to carefully select and prep your produce properly. You can safely enjoy your delicious fall fruits and vegetables by following the tips below.
Picking Your Produce
This is where it all begins! When it comes to selecting your produce, always choose the best of the bunch. Whether you are at the market or even picking from your own garden, do the following to avoid any “bad apples”:
- Inspect all fruits and vegetables for bruising and damage.
- Pay attention to any recalls that happen and throw away any spoiled produce.
Cleaning and Prepping
It is known that raw fruits and vegetables that aren’t properly washed may contain harmful germs such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria, which can make you, your family, and friends very ill. Did you know that in the United States, nearly half of foodborne illnesses are caused by germs on contaminated fresh produce? Before eating or cooking with any fruits and vegetables, follow these tips to ensure you wash away all the bacteria:
- Wash your hands, kitchen utensils, and food preparation surfaces, including countertops and cutting boards, before and after preparing fruits and vegetables.
- Fruits and vegetables should be cleaned before eating, cutting, or cooking, unless otherwise noted on the package. Sometimes it is noted on the package that the content has already been washed.
- Scrub all fruits and vegetables under running water even if you do not eat the outer peel. This will prevent any germs or bacteria from transferring from the outside surface to the inside when cutting.
- Dry the fruits and vegetables with a clean paper towel.
Storing and Preserving
Perhaps the easiest yet most disregarded step in keeping your produce fresh is the matter of storage. Placing your fruits and vegetables in the appropriate temperature and environment is crucial in keeping them fresh. Consider the directions below to help preserve your foods:
- Keep all fresh produce separate from other food such as raw meat or seafood in your kitchen to prevent contamination.
- Once you have cut, peeled, or cooked the fruits and vegetables, refrigerate as soon as possible, within 2 hours or preparation. If outside temperatures reach above 90°F, refrigerate within 1 hour. Make sure your refrigerator temperature is set to 40°F or below and store the fruits and vegetables in a clean, enclosed container.
- If you don’t plan on using your produce soon, consider storing them in an airtight container in your freezer to help preserve their taste and nutrients. Most fruits and vegetables can be placed in the freezer, but double check to see which ones can.
Produce safety is important. Anyone can contract a foodborne illness, but there are certain people that may be more likely to get sick with a more serious illness. Young children, pregnant women, adults age 65, and older people should be more cautious as they have weaker immune systems. Hence, it is more challenging for them to fight off infections.
Keep your fall foods healthy this season by following the advice above. There are so many delicious recipes to indulge in this season so be sure to pay attention while prepping your fruits and vegetables!