The virtues of buying organic over conventional fruit usually come down to how the food is grown. Most conventional farmers use chemical fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides to promote growth, reduce disease and manage weeds, whereas organic farmers lean on compost, birds and crop rotation to serve these purposes. But organic foods are often costly, which can keep them out of many people’s kitchens. If you can’t afford organic and are concerned about chemicals, proper cleaning can take away some of the worry.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends cleaning fruit -- and vegetables, for that matter -- under cold tap water. Hold the fruit under running water and briskly rub the surface. This should remove any dirt, pesticide residue and harmful bacteria still present on the skin. Pat dry and serve or prepare.
If the fruit has a hard or firm rind, such as apples, pears or melons, feel free to use a vegetable brush for cleaning. As before, hold the fruit under cold, running water and briskly rub the surface free of dirt, pesticides and bacteria. Pat dry and serve.
Some people swear by produce washes, but these tend to be just as effective as tap water to clean fruit. According to a study conducted at the University of California-Riverside, taking the extra step of washing with a produce cleanser only removes 6 percent more pesticide residue than water alone -- not a sizable enough difference to recommend its use. This leaves the choice in your hands.
Unlike produce washes, household detergents and soaps aren’t often made with all-natural, organic ingredients, so they shouldn’t be used to clean fruit. Produce is often porous, which means it can absorb the cleaner, not only harming the quality of the fruit but also making it risky to eat. Only use cleansers formulated for foods.
Peeling fruit can also help limit your exposure to pesticides and bacteria. But it’s still important to wash the fruit before doing this. You can transfer dirt, pesticides and bacteria as you remove or cut away the rind.
While it’s important to keep a clean refrigerator for food safety purposes, don’t wash fruit prior to storage. This causes the fruit to spoil much faster than it would when left as is. To prolong the shelf life of fruit, only wash before serving or preparing.