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Care of fresh fruits and vegetables
Berny Unruh

The fruits and vegetables at the grocery store or at the farmer’s market offer not only beautiful colors but lots of needed nutrition. Keep in mind that fresh produce was once part of a living organism, and living organisms tend to attract and be surrounded by other living organisms, and not all living organisms are friendly to our health.

There are some strategies we can follow that will help keep our experience of enjoying fresh produce a healthy one. When shopping at stores or farmers’ markets, remember to:

• Keep raw meat separate from other foods. Sometimes packages will leak and the meat juices may cross contaminate ready to eat items like fresh produce. Also, make your meat and dairy selections last, if possible.

• Make the grocery store or market your last stop. Don’t stock up on groceries then run errands afterwards. There’s a chance your food could spoil (especially in hot weather).

• If your drive home from the store/market takes longer than an hour, use a cooler or insulated bag to keep the food fresh and safe.

• Before consuming ANY produce, it’s important to thoroughly wash the items under running water even if you are not eating the peel because dirt can transfer from the outside to inside. It’s not necessary to wash with soap or special commercial produce washes; clean running water is enough. Clean scrub brushes are helpful when washing tough or dimpled skinned produce like potatoes and melons.

• When you get home from the grocery/market, make sure to store your produce properly to maintain its quality and safety. This is an excellent publication for guidance on storing fresh fruits and vegetables.

When possible, make an effort to shop at farmers’ markets as they are an excellent opportunity to visit with local farmers and learn more about your food. Plus, it’s more fun than shopping at the grocery store. Our farmers’ markets must also follow the good food safety practices to ensure that the products’ quality and safeness are maintained.

Berny Unruh is the Family and Community Wellness Agent for the Cottonwood Extension District.  She can be reached at 785-628-9430 or at