The Right Way to Clean Veggies

Some produce demands a thorough soak before cooking, while others get water-logged and soggy at the first drop. Here's how to wash parsley, parsnips and everything in between.

Photo By: Evi Abeler

Photo By: Evi Abeler

Photo By: Evi Abeler

Photo By: Evi Abeler


Photo By: Evi Abeler

Photo By: Evi Abeler

Photo By: Evi Abeler

It's a Wash

If you've ever made a crisp salad only to end up with a mouthful of grit, you know vegetable prep can make or break a meal. These seven tips will help you quickly and thoroughly clean your veggies to start the cooking process off right.

Give Herbs a Bath

Herbs are delicate; hitting your fresh basil with a high-pressure stream from the faucet can bruise the leaves. Instead, fill a bowl with cold water. Submerge the herbs and swish them around. Repeat two or three times, changing the water between each dunking. When there's no more dirt at the bottom of the bowl you're done. To dry, wrap the sprigs in a towel and shake to release the water.

Gently Wipe Mushrooms

The gills on mushrooms make them as absorbent as sponges, so good luck drying them out once you've submerged them in water. To remove the caked-on dirt from these forest floor dwellers, gently wipe them clean with a damp cloth.

Rinse Leeks

These are the ultimate hiders of dirt. Flecks of soil find their way into every tiny crevice and between each leaf, making it impossible to simply rinse a whole leek under the faucet and have it come out clean. The right way to rinse? Remove the root end of the leek and slice the leek down the middle lengthwise. Holding the layers together, wash each half under cold running water, taking care to pull back and rinse between every layer. For chopped leeks, swish them around in a bowl of cold water. Lift out, drain and repeat as needed until no dirt remains.

Scrub Potatoes

Anything that grows underground is bound to emerge dusty. Potatoes are especially likely to arrive in the store with caked-on dirt — and it won't disappear without a fight. Invest in a stiff-bristled scrub brush and put it to work, scrubbing in a circular motion under cool water while paying special attention to the areas around the eyes (where dirt accumulates most). The effort is worth it; most of the nutrition in potatoes comes from their skins.

Dunk and Soak Greens

Dark leafy vegetables, like kale, collards and Swiss chard, are often grown in sandy soil, which means lots of hidden grit. To clean greens, plunge them into a sinkful of cold water, giving them a shake to loosen any stuck-on sand. Repeat, changing the water between cycles until it remains clean. Dry in a salad spinner or shake the leaves dry in layers of absorbent towels.

Rinse Broccoli and Cauliflower

The free-form, tightly-packed shapes of broccoli, romanesco and the like make them difficult to clean. Start by breaking down the vegetables into smaller florets and rinse them in a bowl of cold water. Repeat as needed until no dirt settles at the bottom of the bowl.

Carrots, Parsnips and Radishes

Even if you like your root vegetables peeled, you should remove the dirt from their skins first by using a stiff-bristled brush and plenty of water. Don't forget the extra-dirty part by the stem.