Lou Georgiades asks: "Does washing fruit with soap and water really remove pesticides, wax, etc. from the skin (which has some essential nutrients)?" This is a great question. I found the following advice at the Food Network Web site and also at the FDA Web site. The Food Network says: "Wash nearly any produce that comes through your door as even organic products will still likely be covered with fertilizer, dust, soil, bacteria, fungi and pesticides. There's no need to panic as it's rare to get sick from contaminants on fruit and vegetables, but it's definitely a good habit to wash most things as soon as you bring them home. It will save time later. Most produce actually benefits from a little added moisture when it won't be stored for too long. Too much dampness will eventually cause mold and other microorganisms to grow, so don't plan on keeping washed items for more than a couple of days or make sure to dry them out thoroughly. Tips for Washing One way to wash a lot of produce is to fill up a large bowl with cool water and dunk it all, scrubbing or swirling as you go. You may need to change the water a couple times. Warm water will actually bring out the flavor in items that you're ready to serve, but never go above lukewarm, you don't want to cook the food! Cool water is best for crisping limp produce, wilted lettuce and limp carrots will revive with 30 minutes to an hour in a cold water bath. Always wash bagged lettuce, even if it is labeled pre-washed. You can get a vegetable scrubber for root vegetables or anything with a rind. New potatoes and baby carrots will require little else than a gentle scrub before cooking. Even items you're planning on peeling with a peeler, though, should be washed, as any contaminants on the outside will spread to the peeler and the food inside. By the way, you won't get the wax coating off of things like apples by scrubbing, you need to actually peel the fruit to remove it. Never use any detergent or bleach solutions to wash with, as fruit and vegetables can absorb these solutions and they're not meant for human consumption. You can use special produce sprays to wash, but water alone will also do the trick. The FDA offers the following advice to reduce the risk of harmful microbial contamination of fresh produce: * Choose produce that is not bruised or damaged. * Refrigerate or chill produce immediately after harvest or purchase. * Wash hands with warm water and soap before and after handling fresh produce. * Wash fresh fruits and vegetables with cool tap water. NEVER use soap or detergents. Air dry or dry with a paper towel. * Scrub firm produce such as melons and cucumbers with a clean hard bristle brush under cool running tap water. * Cut away any bruised or damaged areas with a clean knife. * Don't cross contaminate. Always wash and sanitize cutting boards, counters, utensils and dishes that come in contact with raw meat, fish or poultry before using to prepare fresh produce. Is there something you've always wanted to know but just don't have time to look into it? Each week, one reader's question will be printed with an answer, based upon the responses given by the appropriate sources or experts Ask away ... I'll do my best to do the research for you. Please send your questions to Patsy Oliver at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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