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Market produce


I will be traveling solo this summer for several weeks, mainly in Scandinavia, Paris, and Normandy. For both budget and ambiance, I plan to do a lot of picnicking. I've found it interesting that all the guidebooks that suggest farmers' markets, etc., for provisions don't say anything about washing them. Going back to the hostel will be pretty inconvenient. Are water fountains widely available? Will I be looked at like I'm insane? I'm not one of those people who obsessively washes produce with special brushes, but I also really don't want to get sick.

Any thoughts on this would be most welcome.


Posted by
552 posts

When gathering 'provisions', you have to ask yourself what you expect to accomplish with a casual rinsing of the food.

I've never considered a cold-water wash to be an effective means of removing the two most common concerns: traces of pesticides or food-borne bacterias.

And really, as a self-proclaimed 'market guru' I'd say the two are fairly exclusive: Salmonella-tainted melon rind is not likely to be coming from a non-organic producer, while the 'Biologique' (the term seen in most of Europe) offerings wouldn't have me worried about chemical applications in the skin of cherries.

In either case, your best bet is to soak for a moment in cheap vodka or other 80 proof+ spirits. I personally only accomplish this in my digestive tract, but so far so good... ^_^

Posted by
681 posts

cslh3214, your post got me wondering if fruit/vegetable "wipes" exist, and they do (see link below). I've never tried them, but now I probably will. At least it will be good to have a couple on hand for informal picnics as you mention. Another thing you could do is buy stuff one day ahead of time, wash it at the hostel, then pack it for the next day. But I think Bill has a pretty good idea too :-)

Posted by
795 posts

I have never washed fruit and veggies for picnics from the markets and never thought of it till you mentioned now and no, there is no abundance of water fountains. If it is any comfort, I have been eating them unwashed for decades in Europe and have never once gotten sick.

Posted by
14208 posts


The only place that comes to mind where it was a designated water fountain with a handle to be turned for water coming out was in Strasbourg in the immediate area of the famous cathedral. It was indicated as such in French/ German...potable/trinkbar. I don't know of any places in Paris but do recall seeing more often signs with "non potable" which obviously is not to be used.

Posted by
359 posts

I often wash apples, etc with a bit of bottled water, but I'll be honest: rinsing in cold water doesn't really kill any bacteria and I do it more to just make the fruit "feel" cleaner than because I think it's actually doing anything.

Posted by
9851 posts

In France, and most of Europe, people peel their fruit: apples, peaches, apricots, pears, etc., or soak them: berries, grapes, cherries before eating them. As a young mother in Paris, I always had an Opinel knife in my purse to peel my kids' apples in the park. These are top quality, cheap, and can be found in hardware stores, often in the markets, or the basement of the BHV department store--which is an experience visiting, also. Of course, you'll have to check your luggage if you bring it home. I have six in various sizes at home here in the States that I still use today, all bought either for the kids' fruit in the park or our picnics when we went back to France to visit. Here's a photo:
Correction: apricots are soaked, not peeled.

Posted by
1987 posts

I am way far from obsessive about cooties and the like, but I did read once that it is safe to assume that at least 20 pairs of hands have touched the produce you are about to pop into your mouth. It changed my habits is all I can say. We have driven many miles over many years throughout the US on cross country trips that have taken us deep into vast stretches of agricultural areas. Pesticides, insects, and animal waste not withstanding, I cannot recall ever seeing a portapotty in a field of crops. Have you? At a minimum, a 20 second rinse under running water would be prudent I believe. Soaking fruits and vegetables is not as effective as rinsing under running water, and peeling unwashed produce simply moves the stuff around.

Posted by
16893 posts

Stand-up drinking fountains are not widely available but I have normally found ways to rinse my produce, whether at a tap near the market place, or in a park, or maybe I was carrying tap water in my own, refillable plastic bottle (free with first purchase of a bottled beverage). If water is not potable, it will be labeled as such.

Posted by
8760 posts

I buy bags of cherries, boxes of strawberries, apples, cukes, etc. and have often eaten them while walking around town without washing them first. Never gave it a 2nd thought giving these items to my kids when they were little either. Not a peeler of apples or cukes, or even carrots if they are young and fresh looking.

The EU doesn't allow the use of the same heavy Monsanto pesticides like they do in the US, as they want to protect the lives of their bees. Many farmers stands are organic, so pesticides aren't a problem with them.

Posted by
2261 posts

Wow, who knew there were fruit & vegetable wipes? In the blurb on Amazon it claims something like 99% more effective than water, which I would guess is largely from the rubbing action. As Jo points out, the chemicals are not quite as glow in the dark as the US (although berries really should be rinsed very well, imo).

Bets-my daughter bought her France freak Dad an Opinel No. 10, I keep it on my desk at work for cutting cheese or whatever. I have not uncorked any wine at the office yet, though I did at home and it works splendidly. A nice feature is the rotating ring that prevents the knife from closing on ones fingers mid-slice.

Posted by
283 posts

Belated thanks to everyone who responded! I am definitely going to check out those wipes, if only for peace of mind, and hope for the best with everything else.


Posted by
5828 posts

~C raised an interesting question about food safety and fruits/vegetables. One can extend the query to all salads and fruits including those offers at restaurants. How many restaurants here in North America and Europe wash greens and fruits in a meaningful way? Yet food contamination is noteworthy more than the norm.