Salad Spinners: You Spin Me Right ‘Round!
Spring salads are fun to make and delicious to eat, but there are a few materials that are really essential to good salad making. Deep salad bowls, sturdy tongs for tossing and sharp knives for chopping are all great things to have, but few appliances are as beneficial to salad-lovers as a salad spinner. Chefs love this handy device, which eliminates water from vegetables after they’ve been cleaned and rinsed, leaving the veggies crisp, clean and delish.
Leafy greens are ridiculously healthy for us – after all, they contain a high amount of protein per calorie, as well as tons of beneficial phytochemicals such as vitamin C, carotenoids, magnesium, folate and vitamin K. They are also high in both iron and calcium!
That said, leafy greens are some of the most commonly contaminated varieties. According to National Public Radio, because these nutrition-dense plants grow low to the ground, they are exposed to a lot of bacteria from irrigation systems.
Produce can become contaminated by E. coli, salmonella and listeria, among other things. Additionally, you may want to consider how many strangers handle your produce from when it is plucked from the field to when it is placed on your dinner plate.
Luke LaBorde, associate professor in Penn State University’s Department of Food Science, told NPR his recommended method for cleaning leafy greens.
“Rinse a few times until you can’t see any visible dirt,” he said. “Then spin them in one of those vegetable dryers.”
(By “one of those vegetable dryers,” LaBorde means a salad spinner).
The Dirty Dozen
In addition to being wary of food contamination, you should also keep in mind the harsh chemicals and fertilizers used within the agricultural sector. The use of these chemicals calls to mind the importance of thoroughly washing produce.
The 12 most chemically contaminated foods – also known as the “Dirty Dozen” – might be great products on which to splurge for organic varieties:
- Spinach (one of our favorite leafy greens for using in spring salads!)
- Imported grapes
- Sweet Bell Peppers
- Lettuce (yet another leafy green)
Likewise, there is also a list of the 12 “least contaminated” fruits and veggies. By no means should you neglect cleaning and spinning these, but you might not need to be as worried:
- Sweet corn (frozen)
- Sweet peas (frozen)
- Kiwi fruit
How to wash and spin your veggies
To wash your salad ingredients, you’ll want to thoroughly run the food items under running water to eliminate the presence of dirt. You don’t want to wash the foods in a bowl of water, as this won’t remove dirt effectively. This means getting your hands dirty, but it’s for a good cause! To remove pesticides, many organic food advocates recommend soaking certain members of the “dirty dozen” in a mixture of water and white vinegar.
LaBorde even suggested scrubbing foods that have rinds or grooves (such as melons, potatoes, cucumbers and citrus) with a brush.
After you’ve thoroughly scrubbed your salad fixin’s, you’ll need to dry them in a salad spinner. Dabbing them with a paper towel simply won’t do the trick – you’ll be left with soggy greens and correspondingly watery salad dressing. What a mess! Instead, place the damp greens in a salad spinner and spin the vegetables until no more water can be collected. To make your veggies extra crisp, throw them back in the fridge for a few minutes before serving.
Your turn: Have you used a salad spinner before? How do you feel the quality of a salad prepared with a salad spinner compares to the quality of a salad prepared without one?