Certain leafy, gnarly, and
crevisse-filled fruits and vegetables such as lettuce, scallions,
parsley, and all kinds of berries harbor tiny insects that evade the
commercial and domestic washing process. Organic produce is even
worse. Years ago this wasn't a big problem as farmers happily
doused their crops with all kinds of insectides, and the bugs didn't
come close. It's the dark side of green.
Washing produce now takes time and skill. Here's how we do it at
PFI. Arrange two trays side by side and fill one with
water. Better yet fill one side of a double sink with water and
let the water continue to run into and out of it all the time you are
Squirt a few ounces of RealLemon
juice or fresh lemon juice into the other tray or bowl or
what-have-you. It's better if it's white so the bugs can be
clearly seen in the lemon water. However, they'll show up well
enough in the shiny aluminum tray.
Fill up the container with fresh
water (but not running). The profusion of bubbles means there's
enough lemon juice in the water, and you can't have too much.
Here, we'll show how to clean romaine
lettuce since it is so common, and commonly used in our kitchens.
After discarding the ragged outer leaves if you're not using hearts of
romaine, cut off the stalk end.
Immerse in the lemon water and
separate the leaves. This can be quite an operation for tightly
wrapped vegetables like cabbage which has to be chopped, cored, and
soaked for quite a while before the leaves begin to come apart.
Make sure all the leaves are fully separated and completely immersed.
Swish each leaf in the lemon water,
remove, and place in the (preferrably running) fresh water
adjacent. When all the leaves have been removed, examine the
empty pan of lemon water for bugs. They hate the lemon juice and
once immersed they know it's time to get off the bus. Which is
exactly the message we want to send them. If you've found bugs,
you'll have to do it again until you don't find any. Scoop out
the bugs before re-immersing, although a running water rinse will keep
them from re-attaching themselves. The usual rule (chezaka)
is 3 out of 10. However you're checking, leaf by leaf or bunch by
bunch, if 3 are clean you can assume the next 7 are as well. If
you do find more than a few bugs and you're doing a bunch at a time,
change to a leaf by leaf procedure.
Here comes the checking part.
Using a strong, diffuse light source (an old x-ray film viewer is
perfect), hold each leaf against the light and check for anything that
doesn't look like a leaf. The clinging insects will rarely be
found, but some burrow into the stalks and appear as little brown
discolorations. Dig them out with a knife or discard the whole
leaf if you've mutilated it by doing so. If you found any bad
stuff, send it through the washing process all over again.
Enjoy your salad.