We get a lot of questions about washing fruits and veggies in Ecuador, mainly because the tap water isn’t safe to drink throughout most of the country due to the lack of chlorination and the potential for parasites. If you can’t drink the tap water, you probably shouldn’t wash your produce in it, either.
Since we’re not scientists or experts on this topic, we rely on those who are, such as Dr. Michael Greger from NutritionFacts.org. He and his large team of researchers review the legitimate science on all things food and then share videos and write books about their findings.
In his video, How to Make Your Own Fruit and Vegetable Wash, he reviewed the scientific studies that compared a salt water bath to a vinegar bath to several commercial veggie washes. According to the science, a 10% salt water solution is the best for removing pesticides and other chemicals.
Unfortunately, he didn’t discuss how effective salt water or any of the cleaning methods are for removing parasites or bacteria. That’s why we also recommend giving all your produce a good scrub with a bristle brush after soaking for a couple minutes. And thoroughly cook vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, onions, etc.
You can also buy bagged leafy greens at the grocery store and they claim to be pre-washed, but we have no way of knowing what kind of water they used to wash them, or if they’re even being honest about it.
The best way to wash vegetables that you plan to eat raw is with either distilled water or tap water that you boil for at least 2 minutes, which kills any parasites that might be in the water. Then let the water cool before adding the salt, and also rinse the veggies in distilled or boiled water that has cooled.
We’ve lived in Ecuador for nearly 4 years and only once did I have an intestinal issue after eating raw veggies at a restaurant (in Montañita). It lasted for a few days and then was gone without any medication.
We know two people who got parasites from eating unrefrigerated, undercooked street food and one was hospitalized overnight. Both fully recovered.
It’s important to note that parasites and bacterial contamination are not unique to Ecuador. Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria and others seem to make the news every few months in the United States, so it’s important to take similar precautions wherever you live.
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