Berry-washing techniques up for debate

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DEAR SUN SPOTS: I try to eat berries year-round because they are very healthy and good to eat. I always rinse these berries with water from the faucet before eating them. I worry about chemicals. Is this the best way to clean them? What about berries from Chile and Mexico? — L.L., Brunswick

ANSWER: Washing berries is tricky because they are so delicate. Most of the online sources suggested careful rinsing by submerging the berries in a bowl of cold water right before eating. Some sites mentioned using fruit and veggie sanitizer. (According to Hannaford.com, Veggie Wash is available in their stores.)

You certainly wouldn’t want to scrub berries with a brush, as is sometimes recommended with other fruits and vegetables. Most of the sites recommended sticking to cool water (even for harder-skinned produce), as other products (vinegar, dish soap) can leave a residue or permeate the fruit/vegetable.

Sun Spots can think of two reasons to wash fruits and vegetables. One is to eliminate contamination that might come from bugs or animals in the field or handling by people. The other is to get rid of man-made substances, such as herbicides, pesticides or the waxy coating that you often see on cucumbers and apples.

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Sun Spots has read that strawberries are one of the fruits you should try to buy organically when possible to avoid pesticide residue in the tiny seeds on the surface of the fruit. This gets expensive, however, as strawberries are very difficult to grow organically, as Sun Spots can attest, as she has been attempting it in her home garden for years.

Sun Spots couldn’t find out if there is more risk in imported berries, which are supposed to be inspected, than those from the United States. The contaminated-food scares Sun Spots remembers were homegrown (think California spinach).

Sun Spots doesn’t have a definitive answer for you, only scattered facts on which to base your decision. Berries are very healthy, so Sun Spots continues to eat them and hopes for the best. Undoubtedly, scientists will have a new report on them any day now.

In the meantime, soon it will be berry season in Maine, and Sun Spots does have a tip for saving them for winter use: Spread out the unwashed berries in a single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer. After the berries are frozen solid, use the parchment paper to “pour” them into a freezer-safe container. They will be like marbles, and you can scoop them out as needed (rinse before eating). Sun Spots ate raspberries on her oatmeal all winter. Delicious with agave syrup and soy milk!

DEAR SUN SPOTS: I read your column every day. Keep up the good work. I can’t seem to find Deep River potato chips. They are distributed by Old Lyme Gourmet Co. in Connecticut. Thank you. — L.G., Lewiston

ANSWER: Sun Spots went to the Deep River website (www.deepriversnacks.com) and used the “where to buy” link to search for retailers. The closest was in Freeport, Safe Harbor Farm, 136 South Freeport Road, 865-9989.

If you don’t want to drive, you can buy them online by visiting the website or by calling 1-860-434-7347.

DEAR SUN SPOTS: This is a message for all your readers who are retired educators. Mu Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma will be hosting a Retired Educators Recognition Night on Tuesday, May 10, at the Auburn Middle School cafeteria. Homemade pie will be served at 6 p.m., and the Tympanic Steel Band will provide entertainment at 7 p.m. We sincerely hope that the retired educators in the area will join us for an evening of dessert and good fellowship. Thank you for your wonderful column. — G. Ryder, Danville, gryder36@aol.com

This column is for you, our readers. It is for your questions and comments. There are only two rules: You must write to the column and sign your name (we won’t use it if you ask us not to). Please include your phone number. Letters will not be returned or answered by mail, and telephone calls will not be accepted. Your letters will appear as quickly as space allows. Address them to Sun Spots, P.O. Box 4400, Lewiston, ME 04243-4400. Inquiries can also be e-mailed to sunspots@sunjournal.com.

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