Build a wash station for produce | Living the Country Life
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Build a wash station for produce

You need a quick, efficient way to clean the harvest
Photo courtesy of Iowa State University

When the veggies come out of the garden, they have to be rinsed off. The easiest way to do it is to build a produce washing station close to where they’re growing. It helps prevent a mess in the kitchen, and foodborne illnesses.

Chris Blanchard is a consultant and educator with a company called Flying Rutabaga Works. He says the most important basics in a wash station are adequate lighting and clean water. You should have two washing areas – one sink dedicated exclusively to hand washing, and the other for washing off the produce. From a food safety perspective, Blanchard says spraying the produce with water is almost always going to be better than dunking it.

"If you’ve got some bacterial contamination on a head of lettuce and you submerge that head of lettuce in the water, now that bacterial contamination has the potential to spread through all of that water, and then every other piece of lettuce that you’re putting in there has got potential to become contaminated by that," says Blanchard.

The water from both the hand washing and produce tubs should be contained and disposed of. You could also drain it to a waterway or pasture, as long as you’re not sloshing around in mud.

Blanchard says human comfort at the wash station should also be considered, especially if you’re working there on a regular basis. Your back and knees will thank you.

"The most important thing from an ergonomic standpoint is that the work surfaces ought to be about elbow height. That’s going to provide the least stress on the worker’s backs," says Blanchard. "The best flooring in a packing shed is going to be concrete, but concrete can be really hard on your knees if you’re spending all day on that concrete. The other thing then is anti-fatigue matting, the rubber mats that lay over the top of the concrete and provide a little bit of cushion."

Don’t feel like you have to spend a ton of money. You can build a washing station with just the basics and add to it as your needs change.

Click here to see two vegetable wash station designs from the Leopold Center at Iowa State University

Find more tips for post-harvest handling of produce wash station designs

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