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Organic Greens are in the Bag

Organic Greens are in the Bag

Confession: I was an adolescent food snob. When my single mom, after a long day of work, would break out the frozen vegetables to toss in to one of her famously original casseroles (“Beef Vegetable Melee” still comes to mind)–I would mock shudder: Frozen vegetables? We lived in Southern California, land of produce plenty–and although she used fresh vegetables often enough, how could she be so lazy as to ever resort to frozen vegetables?

Ah, the idealism of a precocious kid. Fast forward a few decades and look at me now: A single mom, so deeply, thoroughly tempted to indulge in packaged pre-washed, pre-cut greens after a long day of work. Bagged greens are fresh at least, but I live in a city with ample and easy access to fresh local greens that don’t require plastic packaging or transportation across the country. Add to that the fact that packaged produce in the supermarket can be more than two weeks old–and in my book, the fresher the better. Even so, boy it can be tempting at the end of a long day. Yet at this point I know if I go down that road I will be repaid with the age-old maternal karma that is bestowed to all daughters that have daughters: “Bagged greens, Mom? That’s so not green.”

However. For people who live in areas without farmers markets, CSAs, and access to produce other than the supermarket–bagged greens may be the only choice for organic produce. If that’s your case, it’s so great that you have the option. And some people may simply not have the time, whatsoever, to handle fresh greens straight from the farm. So for those of you: Yay for organic bagged greens!

The important thing to know about using bagged greens is that they are more processed and carry a higher risk of contamination of E. coli and other bacteria. Cooking is the only way to completely kill bacteria in greens, but the November issue of Gourmet magazine has these tips for safe greens:

Buy whole heads or bunches of intact plants (like romaine hearts); pre-cut edges provide a particularly easy point of entry for bacteria.

Washing won’t get all the bugs out of contaminated greens, but it can remove surface bacteria.

If you buy pre-washed, factory-bagged produce, look at the “use before” date. If it’s getting close, avoid the product. The longer it has been in the bag, the more opportunities for the pathogens to grow.

Never, ever eat uncooked greens from bags whose expiration date has passed, no matter how fresh they appear.

For more about why you should make like Popeye and eat your greens, read Go Gorgeous Greens, which also has my go-to super yummy quick sauteed greens method.

Read more: Food, Green Kitchen Tips, , , , , , , , ,

By Melissa Breyer, Senior Editor, Care2

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

9 comments

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9:48AM PST on Mar 8, 2011

I wish my mom would have pulled out a bag of frozen veggies when I was a kid. Our veggies, if not fresh, came out of the cupboard. Yep, canned veggies. She still buys them for herself. ::shudder:: The only thing I'll buy in a can is soup and tomatoes!

6:06AM PDT on Oct 14, 2010

Thanks for the article.

10:58AM PDT on Oct 13, 2010

We grow a garden every summer and eat from that till fall, when we harvest squash, potatoes, carrots, beets,zuchini and tomatoes. We are lucky to also have farmers markets that are also available, so no fear of high amounts of chemicals. If we did I'd be using vinegar & water to clean them. Using vinegar is great for cleaning all surfaces.

8:28PM PDT on Sep 14, 2010

I bought some fresh baby kale last week at my farmer's market - delish!. Hate to see Summer's end but will keep going back for as long as it lasts.
Thanks for the tips - I agree about the Vinegar, even White vinegar is better than soap!

5:02AM PDT on Sep 14, 2010

Mmmmm Like clicked:)

4:01PM PST on Dec 16, 2008

Good advices, Will !!!

2:07PM PST on Dec 16, 2008

People who can't grow their own greens outdoors might enjoy growing their own sprouts. It's very easy. Take a large peanut butter type jar and put in 1/8 up of sprouting seeds. Add water about 1/2 way up in the jar. Soak overnight. In the morning. pour off all water. Take a clean rag that's quite thread-bare and rubber band it over the mouth of the jar, so that the rubber band hugs the lip of the jar. Now the jar has a sort of funny-looking cover. Run some water right through the rag cover, and then pour the water off, letting as much water as possible drain out. Now hold the jar on its side and try to knock the seeds around so they're spread out well. Put this jar, on its side, in a cool place (not refrigerator) with another rag on top, so it's fairly dark in there. You'll repeat this rinsing process twice daily. After a few days, you'll have sprouts you can eat. The main problem I've seen with people who fail at sprouting seeds is too much warmth and too much water with the seeds. Our house is always at around 60 degrees in winter and this seems very good for sprouting. I've also seen friends be successful at it with slightly higher house temps. The darkness is important, too: seeds are programmed to sprout in darkness. Favorite sprouting seeds: radish, alfalfa, broccoli, cabbage, peas, sunflower seeds. The last 2 I mentioned have to be sprouted alone as they take longer. Those first few can be sprouted together.

8:46AM PST on Dec 16, 2008

If you're being conscious of what you put into your body, don't use detergents to wash your food. There will always be a small amount of residue on the vegetables or other foods you wash. Instead, use a solution of about a cup of vinegar to a gallon of water and spray that liberally on your vegetables. Let them stand a few minutes, then rinse them. No muss, no fuss, and vinegar is good for the body. You can also wash your dishes with vinegar since it kills bateria and viruses on contact.

6:31AM PST on Dec 16, 2008

wash all store bought vegetables with asmall amunt of detergent and rinse well I fill the sin with old water to make sure the detergent is rinsed out. The reason The professional insecticides are put in an oil base so they adhere to the product with the poisen. It does a good job on bugs but not for human consumption, you need the detergent to break up the oil and wash away the poisen. It does not hurt the vegetables or the consumer as long as they are rinsed well. if not rinsed well you may get a little loose stols but if not washed properly...how long can we expect our livers to filter out these insecticides?

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