It’s Fruit and Veggie Season Again :)

hippocratesfoodquote

 

Federal health officials estimate that nearly 48 million people are sickened by food contaminated with harmful germs each year, and some of the causes might surprise you.

Although most people know animal products must be handled carefully to prevent illness, many don’t realize that produce can also be the culprit in outbreaks of foodborne illness. In recent years, the United States has had several large outbreaks of illness caused by contaminated fruits and vegetables—including spinach, tomatoes, and lettuce.

Glenda Lewis, an expert on foodborne illness with the Food and Drug Administration, says fresh produce can become contaminated in many ways. During the growing phase, fruits and veggies may be contaminated by animals, harmful substances in the soil or water, and poor hygiene among workers. After produce is harvested, it passes through many hands, increasing the contamination risk. Contamination can even occur after the produce has been purchased, during food preparation, or through inadequate storage.

FDA says to choose produce that isn’t bruised or damaged, and make sure that pre-cut items—such as bags of lettuce or watermelon slices—are either refrigerated or on ice both in the store and at home. In addition, follow these recommendations:

  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.
  • Cut away any damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating.
  • Gently rub produce while holding under plain running water. There’s no need to use soap or a produce wash.
  • Wash produce BEFORE you peel it, so dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred from the knife onto the fruit or vegetable.
  • Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers.
  • Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.
  • Throw away the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce or cabbage.

 

Lewis says consumers should store perishable produce in the refrigerator at 40 degrees or below.

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

Low Sodium Crockpot Vegetable Broth

a slow cooker Oval Crock Pot

An Oval Crock Pot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been making this for years, even before the heart attack, mostly because I’m too cheap to buy pre-made vegetable broth.  I also do something similar with chicken.

I save all my vegetable scraps such as carrot peelings, celery ends, onion skins, garlic skins and ends, bell pepper scraps, ends from trimming cabbage, trimmings from tomatoes, broccoli stalks.

Belonging to a CSA farm, we get lots of veggies during the summer.

I put all the peelings in a Ziplock Freezer 1 gallon bag and save them in the freezer, and keep adding to the big bag until it’s full.

When I’ve gathered a  couple of full bags, I take them out and dump them in the crock pot and fill with water (about 6 quarts), cover and set on LOW for overnight.

Allow to cool completely and ladle into a colander in it with a big bowl under it.   Discard all the scraps in the colander.

Package up the broth into quart-sized Ziplock freezer bags, 2 cups per bag, canning jars or other freezable containers.

You can also freeze some of the broth in an ice cube tray. Pop out the cubes and put in a freezer bag, labeled and dated. Use these when a recipe calls for 1 to 2 Tbsp. of stock or broth.

To use this with chicken – I do all of the above and save chicken bones and parts in a separate freezer bag,  When it’s time for the crockpot, I add the chicken to the veggies and cook overnight.  Strain well!