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Education and Values
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Nutrition and food safety
Friday, 10 May 2013
Baby Greens, Lettuce & Food Safety in the Garden
Topic: Education and Values

About those baby greens...

We all know how nutritious and appealing those dark green, colorful baby greens, lettuces and herbs are in a salad, don't we? And, of course, how pretty they are in edible gardens, raised beds, and container plantings. Most everyone who plants a garden will plant an assortment of greens and lettuce.





Today's post is a reminder of how to best harvest and then prepare those raw greens.

This container of triple-washed, properly refrigerated organic baby mixed greens is safer eaten directly from its carton than if you were to wash it again in your kitchen sink!






In fact, you should not risk any unintended cross-contamination to this product by putting it anywhere other than your refrigerator for continued cold storage OR directly into the salad bowl for mixing and eating.

The standards in the industry for this food product is to harvest in the coolest part of the day and immediately field cool, then cold water wash and “spin dry” --meanwhile assuring that all equipment involved is sanitized and human handlers adhere to hand-washing standards at frequent intervals.

Greens are not “sanitized” but pathogens are minimized. Techniques include mitigating field contamination (flood waters, runoff water, contaminated irrigation water, bird droppings, animals, etc) , mitigating human contamination (proper instruction and handling), rapid and continuous cooling below 41 degrees, adhering to “good agricultural practices,” and quality monitoring of practices.

But, even with great techniques, raw greens are not recommended for people who have low immune defenses such as low white blood cell counts, on chemotherapy, etc. If in doubt, double-check with your doctor and ask if they advise restrictions in eating raw foods.

How can you improve your food safety practices with baby greens and lettuce that are home-grown in the backyard garden?

Pathogens grow best at room temperature so we want cut greens and lettuces to be kept at refrigeration temperature, below 41 degrees (but not below freezing of course!). Remember this counts for those cut greens and lettuce leaves you are buying at a Farmers' market or produce store, too! They should be in coolers or refrigerated cases when they're sold to you and ideally, you should keep a cooler in your car for transport back to your house especially in the Summer.

Another way to reduce pathogens on your raw leaves is to dress salads with acid based dressings, think about vinegar-and-oil and lemon juice-and-oil. In general, all salads should be served immediately after dressing, or return back to refrigeration.

Now that you've harvested, cooled, washed, and refrigerated your baby greens, how about a nice salad?

Here's my salad from last night:









Baby kale, Swiss chard, spinach dressed with equal parts of lemon juice and olive oil—whisk into an emulsion and toss with the greens 40 times. Then add some toasted walnuts and goat cheese crumbles.

Finally—did you notice from this post that I gave you at least 3 great ideas for Mothers' Day?

Posted by Karen at 16:21 CDT
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