A leafy green that is known for being particularly abundant in nutrients, spinach is a delicacy that is cherished in many homes. Spinach, on the other hand, is prone to harboring loads of dirt and bacteria due to the foldy nature of its leaves, which, if not properly cared for, can provide a potential health risk to both you and the other members of your household. To ensure the health and safety of customers, those who work with food should be familiar with the straightforward yet essential process of cleaning spinach.
How to Remove Spinach Stems Before Washing Spinach
It may be difficult to remove the dirt and bacteria that are found on spinach stems even with thorough washing. Since the stems of spinach are not typically used in cooking, it is best practice to remove them before washing the leafy portion of this plant. This is due to the fact that many recipes do not call for the use of this section of the vegetable.
Before you handle spinach, you are need to thoroughly clean your hands with soap and water. This is the first and most important step. After washing your hands, make sure to dry them thoroughly by patting them with a paper towel.
Take your spinach leaves and start by removing and discarding any pieces that are discolored, damaged, or have bug bites. Throw away any leaves that have mold on them or are rotting.
Take hold of the very bottom of the stem, right where it joins the leaves. When you fold the leaves together, you should feel the contact between your thumb and your pointing finger.
To unfold the leaves, pull them back along the stem until you reach the end. You will be left with fragments of the leaf that are cut in half. Repeat this step for each stem of spinach.
Ever wonder what that the words triple-washed or pre-washed on a bag of baby spinach mean?
According to the findings of engineers working at the University of California, Riverside, not very much. They made this discovery after investigating the potential causes of multiple bacterial outbreaks affecting leafy green vegetables and found that little peaks and valleys in the leaves of baby spinach may be a contributing factor.
At this time, disinfectant is added to the water used for rinsing the leaves, but it is not administered directly to the leaf surface. The researchers from the Bourns College of Engineering discovered that due to the diverse topography of the spinach leaf, approximately 15 percent of the leaf surface may reach concentrations that are as low as 1,000 times that of the bleach disinfectant that was used to rinse it. This was discovered as a result of the fact that the spinach was being washed with bleach.
As a consequence of this, the bacteria may continue to live, proliferate, spread, and contaminate other leaves and surfaces within the processing facility even after the leaves have been rinsed. This occurs as the leaves make their way through the facility.After being rinsed under the low bleach setting, it was noticed that up to ninety percent of the bacteria that had stuck to the leaf surface remained connected to the leaf and continued to live there.
According to Nichola M. Kinsinger, a postdoctoral researcher working with Sharon Walker, a professor of chemical and environmental engineering, “in a sense, the leaf is protecting the bacteria and allowing it to spread,” “It was surprising to discover how the leaf surface formed micro-environments that reduce the concentration of bleach,” the researchers said. “And in this case, the very disinfection processes that were intended to clean, remove, and prevent contamination was found to be the potential pathway to amplifying foodborne outbreaks.”
At the 250th American Chemical Society National Meeting & Exposition, Kinsinger is scheduled to give a presentation about her study today (August 19). The title of the presentation is “Is our salad safe? The effectiveness of disinfection methods in removing contaminants from spinach leaves and lowering the risk of cross-contamination.”
Kinsinger is also drafting a paper about the findings, which will be co-authored with Walker and Madeline Luth, who is a student in the undergraduate program. It won’t be long until it’s sent in for publication.
According to statistics provided by the Center for Disease Control, foodborne infections are responsible for the illness of one in six Americans and the deaths of three thousand per year. In addition to that, this results in a loss for the food business that is projected to be greater than $75 billion every year.
According to findings from previous study, leafy green produce was responsible for approximately 20 percent of all single food product outbreaks that occurred between the years 2003 and 2008. Because it is so frequently consumed uncooked or raw, contamination of produce that has been barely treated and is already ready to eat is a cause for concern.
In 2006, the state of California was the location of one of these epidemics, which involved spinach. In total, 199 persons in 26 different states have been affected with the strain of E. coli that caused the outbreak. Three died.
The current norm in the industry dictates that anything from fifty to two hundred parts per million of bleach should be added to the water that is used to rinse leafy green vegetables. However, according to Kinsinger, that is merely a guideline and not a requirement or law at all.
Kinsinger and Walker constructed a parallel plate flow chamber device for the purpose of the research. This allowed them to analyze in real time the attachment and detachment of pathogens to the spinach under conditions that were representative of the water’s chemistry and flow.
Their work focused solely on baby spinach; however, the problem of reduced bleach concentration across the leaf surface and other surfaces within the processing facility is applicable beyond the specific scenarios that were tested. This demonstrates the limitation of bleach disinfection, which is a significant cause for concern regarding the public’s health.
According to Kinsinger, future study will concentrate on a wider variety of pathogens as well as foods, surfaces, and facilities in processing plants.
Kinsinger points out that despite their findings, the food supply system in the United States is one of the safest in the world. Nevertheless, she suggests that you wash those leaves. “I recommend rinsing those leaves.”
Kinsinger was born and raised in Riverside, and she attended UC Riverside for both her undergraduate and doctoral degrees. She is the recipient of an Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Postdoctoral Research Fellowship from the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Why are leafy greens so dirty compared to other produce?
When it comes to fruits and vegetables, why should we even bother using pesticides in the first place? There are a number of important advantages, one of which is that it can help with the management of pests and also discourages or eliminates the presence of insects, fungi, or other organisms that might nest in our food. Regrettably, the presence of pesticides in any product can have unintended consequences for human health, including allergic reactions such as difficulty breathing, rashes on the skin, inflammation, and other health issues. Long-term exposure to pesticides raises additional safety issues that must be considered.
Leafy greens in particular are problematic. In fact, spinach has 1.8 times as much pesticide residue by weight than any crop that EWG researched, and one sample of kale, collard, and mustard greens had up to 20 different pesticides in it. Moreover, previous work found that 60 percent of kale samples sold in the US contained pesticide residue that may cause cancer. Buying organic produce is a great way to get vegetables free of pesticides, but if that’s not an option, how you clean your produce is very important.
In terms of physical dirt, given that leafy greens are often grown directly in, well, dirt, it should come as no surprise that there tends to be a lot of to clean. Plus, since these greens have many crevices and root systems spread throughout, sand, dirt, and silt have a tendency to embed all over individual leaves and stems.
While farmers, manufacturers, and supermarkets may do a preliminary rinse of their produce before customers pick it up, it takes a far deeper clean to get off all of the grime.
How do you get them clean?
While some methods may differ slightly depending on the leafy green or the person, there’s a general routine you can follow whether you’re cleaning spinach, kale, lettuce, collard greens, or something else.
Here’s what to do:
- Run your leafy greens under the tap for an initial quick rinse as soon as you get home from the grocery store. Cut out their stems or stalks, as much of the dirt and sand is trapped in them. To make things easy and less wasteful, you can wash stems separately and use them in vegetable stocks and other recipes later.
- Check your leaves to see if there are any bits that are already starting to go brown or soggy and dispose of them. Then, chop your produce into larger chunks. This will make the process of cleaning them way easier than if they’re still intact.
- Place your greens in a salad spinner filled with cold water and crank it several times. If you don’t have a salad spinner, fill a large pot with cold water and place your greens in it, then toss them for a minute or two.
- Once you’ve used your salad spinner or just tossed them in a large pot, transfer your greens to another bowl or pot that includes a 10 percent saltwater solution and let it sit for 20 minutes. After those 20 minutes are up, drain your greens using a colander and lay them on a towel or several paper towels. Lightly pat them dry.
- Once you’re sure everything’s dry, place your greens in containers lined with paper towels at the bottom. This will help soak up additional moisture and prevent your greens from getting soggy. Store them in the coldest part of your fridge for anywhere from seven to 10 days depending on the veggie.
How To Dry Spinach after Cleaning
Transfer your washed spinach onto a paper towel. Tap them dry till they are dry of all water. Alternatively, use a salad spinner to dry your spinach. Do not air-dry spinach as this will encourage the growth of harmful organisms.