Green Washing & Washing Greens

The grocery store on our corner is part of a national chain yet the cloth banner that beats in the breeze makes claims of local produce inside. I believe they do have local produce but I have little confidence that it came directly from local production. I suspect that despite it’s nearby habitat, the produce went from here to some distant warehouse and back again.

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My dry cleaner now has a sign that says Organic and Green. I don’t know what that means and to be fair, I haven’t asked. But I do know that everywhere I’m turning, I see claims designed to influence my thinking about the “greenness” of a particular business.

Sustainability and green are becoming as overused as “strategic”. I’m an advocate of being both sustainable and green but frankly, there’s more information than I have time and I need to turn to knowledgeable pundits. One answer to knowledge and standards is regulation and while good regulation has a place, our current climate has many asking for less of it.

Some organizations like DAVOS and Corporate Responsibility Magazine have created lists of some of the most sustainable businesses but it’s highly unlikely that I can get information about my local merchants. Is this an opportunity for someone willing to research and organize data? Where do you turn for information?

Turning to my kitchen, I find I’m also deluged by green. It begins this month and we’ll see it through until at least April. Before it starts, I cannot wait and suddenly, I’m swept into green abyss. This week we have spinach, mizuna, arugula and bok choy. I love the mild spinach and bok choy in smoothies and on their own but also enjoy the more fierce mizuna and arugula in salads and tossed into many dishes.

One thing that all greens have in common is the need to be washed. I’m certain that everyone has a way to do this but I’m often surprised but the number of people that ask me about it. Here’s the way I do it:

  1. Fill a bucket or large pot with cold water.
  2. Separate the greens by the bottom of the stalks.
  3. Holding your greens by the root end, plunge them into the water.
  4. Swish them around and pump them up and down in the cold water for about a minute. The dirt washes out and then sinks to the bottom of the pot.
  5. Remove your greens and put in a salad spinner to dry. You can also let dry on towels.
  6. Use the water to hydrate your house plants or other patio flowers.

There you have it – both green and sustainable!

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51 Comments

  1. Mmmm….greens. We have some collards in our frig for eating tomorrow night. Love them. Have never heard of mizuna, but if it’s anything like arugula I’m in! (Although my husband does not like arugula. He doesn’t know what he’s missing.) Thanks for the washing tips!

    Reply
    • Tammy

       /  November 14, 2011

      I have found a few ways to sneak some of the stronger flavored greens into meals.

      Reply
  2. I’m pretty sure that you are correct.

    In my part of the country, I’m lucky that I can still buy fresh greens at the farmer’s market that I know are grown locally.

    Last spring, I had spinach from my own backyard garden. Was so busy this fall, I didn’t get any planted. At this point, I think I’ll wait until February to plant.

    Recently, I’ve run across more than a few studies by advertising/marketing/environmental communication faculty researchers that looks at the question of “greenwashing” in advertising. It’s a subject area that I expect will see continued interest.

    Reply
  3. Tammi, I would be one to ask how to wash greens, so thank you! I didn’t have to! :) And thank you for just helping us keep in mind that the word green may have more to do about money than ecology. Blessings!

    Reply
  4. I also wonder at claims of green, natural, eco friendly …. Thanks for the how to wash your greens tips – I add salt to my water, not sure why but I always have :)

    Reply
  5. I’m laughing as I read this remembering a meal I made trying to feed my plastic wrapped, refined foods loving family sauteed beet greens straight up with oil & garlic. I’m sure you can imagine what a hit that was….

    I love that you save the water – I need to get better at remembering to do that.

    Reply
    • I do know what a hit it was but keep doing it. I actually have one die-hard greens eater now and three others who at least try.

      Reply
  6. Oh I love your “washing greens tips”, especially you don’t throw the water away like I normally do. I will definitely save the water next time :)

    Reply
    • Tammy

       /  November 15, 2011

      If the greens are grown without pesticides, then it makes sense to reuse the water.

      Reply
  7. I am also a die hard Bok Choy fan. My sister cooks up some amazing Thai curry and bok choy is a part of it.

    And too good is the water usage part. No waste at all.

    Reply
  8. Thank you for the tip on washing greens. I spent a ridiculous amount of time washing chard and kale last night for a green soup. This sounds like it will be much faster.

    Coming up with a green guide for local merchants sounds like a possible business proposition. I use GoodGuide (online) for products, but have not seen anything of the sort for local businesses.

    Reply
    • I agree with you. I guess before the services are plugged into it, there has to be development of the standards?

      Reply
  9. I often double wash ~ doing what you do above, then chopping the greens and floating them around a 2nd time while agitating the water with my hand. It depends on how gritty they are to begin with.

    I love sauteed greens in so many different casseroles and stir fries. YUMMY!

    Reply
  10. Good tips on washing. Remember it is not just the grit or soil but pesticide and other chemical residue. When I am home at the Lower farm I add a couple drops of bleach to the water. We don’t have running water in the house. All water is drawn by hand from a well so just an extra precaution.

    Reply
  11. I’m too afraid to ask what a dry cleaners could possibly mean when they say “organic and green”…

    Reply
  12. Good point about the bandwagon effect. There’s certainly a good motive for more businesses to think about their “green” impact, and how to communicate the positives to the world. But at some point you do get the sense the marketing has taken over the authenticity. At least more people are paying attention to this.

    Reply
  13. Tammy, your picture of greens makes our greens here look so lacklustre: ours are humble types, not shiny or colourful, but rather a stalwart, dependable bottle green. Jolly British :-D

    Reply
  14. A wise caution about what is really Green—a term, like organic, eco-friendly, and sustainable that has been corporately co-opted.
    Where I live, many varieties of greens thrive through the winter—thank goodness! I water my houseplants, too, with the “dirty water,” post green cleaning.

    Reply
  15. Bleach is beneficial in that it kills off microbes, which are more of a concern if you greens might have been grown somewhere where e. coli (etc) could have been washed/tracked into the field or even if someone handling them might have been a carrier. Salt helps by making any bugs drop off, along with stickier soil. I tend to use salt whenever I’m concerned about not serving catepillars to guests or if I’m freezing things. I mostly skip the bleach, but I eat almost all of my greens cooked.

    Reply
  16. Over here, it’s the “Bio” (= organic) label that becomes worn out. I mean, it’s nice when the produce is organic, but what does it help when it has still traveled miles and miles to get here?!

    Around my :) corner, there’s an organic supermarket where I like to buy things, and the vegetables are always labelled as coming from very close by (there’s agriculture around Heidelberg in the Rhine lowlands, and the fields start about half a kilometer from where I live), and since the things are always fresh and sometimes still earthy, I believe this is all local. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to buy everything organic, but especially with greens, I always do so because you eat the surface parts mostly.

    Thank you for your washing instruction, the water bowl thing sounds really clever, and I haven’t come up with that myself. ;)

    Reply
  17. Oh, and I finally did a turnip post for you! :D

    Reply
  18. That’s how I do that too! ;)

    Reply
  19. Very useful information Tammy and definitely words to “chew” on. I have wondered similar things as Whole Foods has “locally grown” on many of their produce stands. Strangely enough, here in what you would think would be “green mecca” in the Los Angeles area, my two closes Farmer’s markets are NOT ORGANIC! Yes, a few of the merchants do have organic but most do not. This frustrates me because I am trying to do my best and am finding it very difficult to do so. I also joined two different CSA’s last year and BOTH, yes BOTH sent me boxes of OLD vegetables not the fresh beautiful ones I see across the internet. I am perplexed and frustrated. I have heard of one other CSA where I can go to pick up my box but it’s not all that close so I have yet to make the commitment. Thanks for sharing this.

    Reply
  20. oh, poison green color, very good!!

    Reply
  21. That is such beautiful lettuce with those red veins. Great washing instructions. I was taught to add salt to the rinse water and then I rinse the lettuce again in plain water after I let it soak for a bit in the salt water.

    Reply
    • That’s also what Tandy said and I hadn’t heard of it before. Maybe I’ll try it next time although it would render my water useless for watering plants.

      Reply
  22. Excellent post and thanks for the tips, Tammy – although I have to confess to frequently buying ready washed produce…either way, you have me craving something GREEN!

    Reply
  23. Very helpful post! Thanks!

    Reply
  24. i just got a whole lot of swiss chard in my CSA- any favorite recipes? i’m not super familiar with this green

    Reply

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