Triple Washed:  Do my veggies need a bath?

I was searching for veggies at a local store recently.  The produce was all visibly “blessed” with water, and it seemed to smell a bit moldy.  Some of it looked ok, some of it looked sad.  And I don’t know how long it’s been on the shelf, or in the warehouse.  But it’s what I can buy before the CSA harvest begins. I ended up buying two containers of Earthbound Farm greens.  At the bottom of the label on each box was printed, “Triple Washed.”

Spring Mix Triple Wash

Should I be reassured or troubled?  And should I even believe them?  It is a pre-printed label.  So, I contacted Earthbound Farm through their web site, asking them to elaborate.  Following is their reply:

“We love it when our consumers get in touch with us, because you are the reason we do what we do every day. Our triple wash process where we wash the product three separate times in tiers with filtered water. This allows us to provide a product that is ready to eat from the package for your convenience.”

I could live without the marketing doodoo, but they did answer my question.  Sort of.

Interestingly, the greens in the Earthbound Farm containers didn’t smell moldy.  They smelled like…greens.

For a couple of summers when I was a youth, I worked on my maternal grandfather’s farm.  This was in the mid ‘60s.  He had a truck farm on the outskirts of Toledo.  After we picked the peppers, tomatoes, sweet corn, squash, or what have you, we would take them back to his greenhouse/shed.  There we would sort out the uglies, and pack the veggies in cardboard or lightweight wooden baskets.  My uncle would hose the packed produce down on the truck before it was taken to market.

I suppose you could say it had been double washed:  first by rains in the field and the second time by my uncle.

From there my uncle or grandfather would drive the truck to a distribution warehouse for the A&P or Kroger’s for later sale in area grocery stores.  Occasionally they would go to a true farmer’s market in downtown Toledo.  Don’t know how it was processed after we delivered the produce.  But I’ll bet it wasn’t triple washed.

Fast forward 45 years…

Maybe one of the unspoken reasons I signed up for the CSA was:  I want to know what’s been done to my food.  Or at least, I want the opportunity to ask.  Working a few summers on a farm in Toledo didn’t make me a farmer.  It did make me aware of the process.  It gave me a few tools to ask knowledgeable questions.

I suppose I could push the Earthbound Farm folks for more details about those “tiers with filtered water”, but I can’t see the expression on their faces to know if I’m getting the straight dope.

I did a web search for “best practices for washing produce”.  This MSU Extension page gives useful guidance.  Interestingly, a different MSU Extension page and USDA page assert that contents of a package labelled “Triple washed” are safe to eat without further washing.  Since trust is an issue for me, I washed the Earthbound Farm greens (combined with a few others).  Then I tried out my nifty salad spinner that Adrienne suggested we buy .  My wife quipped, “aren’t you gonna buy three spinners?”  I’ll start with one.  But they are cool to use.

D Gillen

About the author: Dave Gillen didn’t want to eat hotdogs for the rest of his life, so he learned to cook. His mother taught him to boil water, fry an egg, and make oatmeal cookies. Dave forgot how to make the cookies, barely remembered how to fry eggs, but is spot on at boiling water. Currently, he divides his days between being wife Lois’ in-house techno geek and personal chef…and walking his greyhounds.

 

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