Preparing Produce

The Abundant Garden: Growing Quality Kids Through Gardening by

Preparing produce – an activity for children of all ages. Buying produce from the grocery stores and farmers markets these days can be scary, even when buying organic. This is why it’s so important to grow as much of your own food as you are able. But even if you grow your own, it’s still important to learn how to wash your produce before eating it. There are many expensive fruit and vegetable wash products available for purchase, but they have proven to be unnecessary according to the FDA. Even homemade lemon and vinegar solutions haven’t proven their worth. How to inexpensively and effectively wash produce may not be the most exciting activity, but it is a very important, money and life-saving lesson to learn. In this activity, children will learn how to effectively wash their hands, and their fruits and vegetables.

  • Supplies:
  • Put your apron on.
  • (Please note: the next four bullets of this activity were also included in the “Kids in the Kitchen” activity in lesson one. Feel free to skip over these points and just have your child wash their hands and then proceed to washing the produce as described below). Learn about bacteria and germs and the importance of hand washing by reading books such as Cutie Sue Fights the GermsGerms Make Me Sick! (ages 4-8), Germs are Not for SharingWash Your Hands! (ages 4-6), and/or Lather Up: Handwashing Activity Handbook (ages 8-12).
  • Have your child name items they may have touched that day – door knobs, toilet, chairs, seat belts, dishes, etc. Ask if they would want to touch their mouths to those items. Discuss why it’s important to wash their hands (hands that have touched each of those things and then touched their food).
  • Have your child practice thoroughly washing their hands in hot, soapy water. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a good rule of thumb is to scrub wet hands with soap for while singing a song (like “Happy Birthday”) two times (or about 20 seconds).
  • Consider using a Glo Germ Mini Kit to watch how germs are spread and to evaluate handwashing.
  • Wash the produce under clear running water. The “FDA recommends washing fruits and vegetables under running water just before eating, cutting, or cooking. FDA does not recommend the use of soap, detergent, or commercial produce washes” ( “Wash all whole fruits and vegetables before preparing them – even if the skin or rind will not be eaten. This prevents pathogens from being transferred from the rind or skin to the inside of the fruit or vegetable when it is cut. If the fruits and vegetables are firm (such as potatoes or melons), scrub them with a clean, sanitized fruit/vegetable brush. For soft fruits and vegetables (such as tomatoes), gently rub them with your hands to loosen the dirt. Remove and throw away the outer leaves of lettuce and cabbage before washing them. To wash berries, parsley and greens, put them in a clean colander and spray them with a kitchen sink sprayer. Or, gently turn the produce as you hold it under running water. Be sure to turn and gently shake the colander as you wash the produce” (Peggy Van Laanen and Amanda Scott, Professor and Extension Program Leader for Food and Nutrition, and Extension Associate, The Texas A&M University System).
  • Ask your child why it’s important the fruits and vegetables be washed – removes soil, insects, fertilizers, possible chemicals, (many things that cannot be seen by the eye), etc.
  • Using a clean cutting board and knife, cut away any damaged or bruised areas prior to eating.
  • Enjoy eating your thoroughly prepared produce!