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I'm eating a lot of kale and other leafy vegetables lately, and I'm concerned about removing pesticide residue. Is thoroughly rinsing the leaves in cold water enough?

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

When washing vegetables that can get muddy (Kale, leeks, etc.) I generally recommend first using tepid to slightly warm water to help soften the mud more easily. Leeks should be split down the middle and then can be fanned under warm water which will help wash the dirt out more readily.

For Kale, if it isn't muddy then you can use cold water and give it a soak and agitate as hobodave indicated below. If they're muddy and dirty, then I'd use slightly warmer water to first clean them and then give them a soak in some cold water to help plump them up and increase their turgor pressure to make them nice and crisp.

A good wash in water (universal solvent) should be enough. Most of what I've read on the effectiveness of "vegetable wash sprays" say that they're no better than a good wash with water.

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With regard to kale and other leafy greens that are heavily treated with pesticides: Do you happen to know if the pesticides only coat the leaves, or are they absorbed by the vegetables to some degree? I have a friend who insists that all leafy vegetables should be put through seven soakings to leach pesticides out of them, but I can't find anything to substantiate her claim. – Iuls Jul 17 '10 at 6:00
Due to the tender nature of greens (including kale although it is sturdy) they would possibly be likely to absorb to some degree. I haven't heard the idea of soaking to leach them out, especially 7 times, so I can't speak to that. The reason I suggest to soak in tepid water is for softening dirt and the cold water is to hydrate the cells and increase turgidity of the greens/vegetables to improve shelf life and quality. If soaking them did help to leach out pesticides there's no way of saying that 7 is the magic will depend on what was sprayed, how much, how frequent, etc. – Darin Sehnert Jul 17 '10 at 6:35

Also, make sure that you cut off entire stem right up to the top off the leaf, otherwise the consistency of the finished leaf will be a little too chewy...

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Leafy greens like kale should be washed in a sink or tub full of cold water. Submerge the leaves in there and agitate them gently. You do not have to worry about pesticides. Your greater concern should be with removing all the sand and dirt from these leaves. Chewing on a rock, no matter how small is not a pleasant experience for you or your guests.

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