The Best Way to Clean Your Bird's Vegetables Properly

blue-and-gold macaw on vegetables

There are animals in the wild that dunk their food in water before eating them. Raccoons do it routinely. I don't know if it's to actually wash of the food item or if it's because they prefer a moister food, but nevertheless, they dunk their food before eating it.

I have two parrots that are dunkers: both of my African greys Nyla and Pepper like to occasionally trash their water bowl with a food item they're in the process of eating. When I make a batch of Chop for my greys, I will hand them a piece of vegetable to snack on while I'm making it — the heart of a cabbage head makes a great toy to destroy.

But before Nyla goes into commando mode and commences with the shredding, she walks with it over to her water bowl and gives it a bath.

I don't know if she's being sanitary or just likes tossing stuff into her water bowl but she does this even though it's the center of the cabbage and was never exposed to dirt or toxins.

Why Washing Vegetables is So Important

Washing vegetables is an important part of preparing food. Chemicals, sprays and environmental pollutants from the air can deposit on the outside of vegetables. A quick wash and a light scrubbing gets most of this off of them.

There are commercially manufactured vegetable washes available and those are fine. But if you are feeding a lot of vegetables to a large flock, it can get pretty pricey.

So what's a person to do? Well, the veggie wash cavalry is here to make things a little cleaner and a little cheaper for you.

Vinegar. Yup. Just plain old apple cider vinegar cuts though the crud in no time. Vinegar is an acid and it's an effective cleaner. Why? Vinegar has a bactericidal effect on food-borne bacteria and eliminates it. A good thing to remember when you're in front of the oil and vinegar section at the grocery store. Grab that jug!

Put a cup of vinegar to each three cups of cool water in your sink, deposit the vegetables, scrub them up with a vegetable brush, let them air dry and you're ready to start your recipe.

If you're making a big batch of food that is to be frozen, you can use a bucket or a large plastic tub to wash your vegetables. I use my bathtub. Simply clean and scrub your tub well and you can use that for those enormous batches of vegetables when people get together to prepare and share food for their flocks.

Some people prefer to use grapefruit seed extract. Sometimes billed as GSE, you can find this online and at some specialty stores such as Whole Foods. Simply follow the directions on the bottle.

Try This Vegetable Wash 

Here is the basic vegetable wash for leafy greens:

  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 3 cups water

Mix the water and vinegar in a bowl or your clean sink. Add the greens to soak in the bowl or sink for about 2 minutes, then rinse them really well.

Researchers at Cook's Illustrated Magazine found that it killed 98 percent of any bacteria on food products. It's good for leafy greens because according to the Center for Disease Control, they are very likely to be contaminated with E. coli bacteria.

The Journal of Food Protection published an interesting study. It found that vinegar's ability to kill E. coli bacteria was "significantly enhanced" when salt was added to the mix. I'm not sure it's a good idea, but I suppose if you rinse well, it shouldn't be a problem. So if you want to add a tablespoon of salt to this solution and rinse thoroughly, have at it.

Another strategy is the spray bottle. Here is a recipe that uses lemon juice, another acid.

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar 
  • 1 cup cold tap water in a spray bottle

Mix, shake well and spray your produce with it. Rinse it with water before using in your recipes. This works well for fine leafy vegetables such as cilantro and parsley.

And while you're at it, use the mixture to disinfect your countertops. Spray the lemon/vinegar solution on the counters then let it dry. Don't rinse or wipe them down afterward.

Not only does washing your vegetables ensure a clean product, it's simply a healthy habit to get into.

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