Preparing Fruit, Herbs and Vegetables

 

A Detailed Guide to Fruit, Herb and Vegetable Preparation

 

Dear Friend,

We are pleased to present our updated “Guide to Preparing Fruit, Herbs and Vegetables”. This guide is based upon the lectures giving by Rabbi Yoseph Eisen, Rabbinical Administrator of Vaad Hakashrus of the Five Towns and Far Rockaway, Long Island, New York, during his resent visit to Denver. All the information was subsequently reviewed and amended by Rabbi Eisen.

The guide includes the procedures for preparing many varieties of products, some of which will only be practical to do with small quantities while others are feasible to do even on a large scale. We recommend that you allow ample time when preparing these products, to assure that they will be prepared properly. Accordingly, not all products that are listed in this guide will be available at Scroll K certified catered events.

We would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to Rabbi Eisen for coming to Denver to share with us the results of his many years of research and supply us with practical methods to inspect these products. We are also thankful to the sponsors: Aish Denver, Bais Yaakov High School, BMH, Cong Zera Abraham, EDOS, and the Vaad Hakashrus. Thank you too, to the hundreds of participants who attended the lectures.

The Scroll K looks forward to continuing to keeping updated with modern advances in technology and to share the findings with you in the future. In the meantime, feel free to contact the Scroll K/Vaad Hakashrus of Denver if you have questions regarding any Kashrus matters.

Sincerely,

Rabbi Moshe Heisler
Kashrus Administrator

Rabbi Yisroel Rosskamm
Rabbinical Administrator

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Vegetable and Herb Inspection

A brief halachic overview of what produce must be checked

There are three categories of produce:

  1. Produce in which insects are found very infrequently are called Miut Sheaino Matzui – (e.g., peppers, cucumbers, carrots, etc.), and it is unlikely for an insect to be found again. Such types of produce need not be checked for insects.
  2. Produce that is not infested with insects, but insects are spotted regularlyare called Miut Hamatzui – (e.g., lettuce, cabbage, etc.), at least 10% of the time.Such types of produce must be properly inspected for insects before use.
  3. Produce that is infested with insects are called Muchzak Bitolaim -, i.e., at least 51% of the produce is found to contain insects (e.g., raspberries).Such types of produce must be checked individually in a very meticulous manner.

The practical manner in which we categorize our produce is based upon a written Teshuva (Halachic responsa) from Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l. In this Teshuva R’ Shlomo Zalman presents his view that produce should be assessed as units. A cabbage head, a lettuce head, a box of strawberries, and a bunch of asparagus (as opposed to a single strawberry and a single stem of asparagus) all share the feature of being sold as a unit.

Our Findings

Many, many years of checking large quantities of an array of commonly-used produce have yielded the information that will be presented in this document. The percentage used to define the most common category of produce requiring inspection is 10%, as per the psak of the Mishkinos Yaakov. Thus, if 10% of the units of produce are found to contain insects, that type of produce is categorized as a Miut Hamatzui and must be properly inspected for insects before use. For instance, in our checking insects were found in at least 10 out of every 100 boxes of strawberries checked; strawberries are therefore considered a Miut Hamatzui and must be properly inspected before use. Most of the strawberries inside the 10 boxes that were found to contain insects were actually clean of insects; nonetheless, the strawberries are considered a Miut Hamatzui because 10% of the units, in this case the boxes, contain insects.

Using this same gauge, raspberries should be categorized as Muchzak Bitolaim because it has been found, statistically, that out of every 10 cartons of raspberries inspected for insects 5-6 cartons contain insects. Because at least 51% of the boxes are found to contain insects, raspberries are considered infested.

What are we looking for?

There are three types of insects that are commonly found:

  1. Aphid – a round, green insect that can pierce the vegetable and stay firmly attached to it. Aphids are able to grip the flesh of the produce very firmly because of a proboscis (tentacle) that protrudes from the front of their bodies and hooks onto the produce. Aphids are not effectively dislodged from the vegetable’s surface by water, but soaking the produce in a soapy solution and then rinsing the produce under a heavy stream of water effectively dislodges aphids from the surfaces of the produce.
  2. Thrips – a long insect that is black or brown and at times even green. Thrips have wings to jump but are incapable of gripping and attaching themselves to the vegetable. Thrips tend to dislodge from produce upon thorough rinsing.
  3. Leaf Miner – a less commonly found type of insect that can pierce the outside of the vegetable and eat its way through the flesh of the vegetable, creating very visible tunnel-like lines (often speckled with black dots). Leaf miners leave a clearly and easily discernible trail on the vegetable’s surface.

NOTE: A partial list of produce that are prone to contain leaf miners is: basil, celery, parsley leaves (at times), Romaine lettuce during the summer months, scallions, and spinach.

How to Check Vegetables

Artichoke

Artichokes are comprised of three parts: a solid bottom, the artichoke leaves, and the artichoke heart.

  1. The artichoke bottom can be used without any inspection.
  2. The artichoke leaves can contain aphids and thrips. They should be plucked from the artichoke heart, washed in a soapy solution, dried, and then inspected carefully for insects.
  3. The artichoke heart has several layers, and insects can be embedded between these layers. Therefore, it is not recommended to use the artichoke hearts.

Arugula

Steps for cleaning arugula:


1. Separate leaves.

2. Fill a pan with water and a soapy solution. The pan should be large enough to accommodate the amount of product you are using and still enable you to vigorously agitate the leaves, as described below. The amount of soap should be enough to make the water feel slippery and be sudsy.

3. Submerge leaves in the pan of water for 3-5 minutes.

4. Agitate the leaves in the water so that the soapy solution loosens insects that are gripping the leaves’ surface.

5. Under a heavy stream of water, rinse the leaves in a colander, shaking the colander in such a way that the water covers all of the leaves held within it.

6. Examine samples of the leaves for surface insects and leaf miners.

NOTE: At first one will need to check as much as 50% of the leaves. Once a person masters this procedure, however, he can decrease the quantity of leaves that he checks.

7. If the samples are completely clean of insects, all of the produce can be used.

8. If insects are found in the samples, all of the produce should be checked.

Asparagus

Asparagus can contain thrips in the tip of the asparagus and under the triangles along the sides of the stem. Therefore, it is recommended to cut off the top of the asparagus and peel the sides.

White asparagus

White asparagus is not prone to insects and can be used without inspection.

Basil

Steps for cleaning basil:


1. Separate leaves from the stem.

2. Fill a pan with water and a soapy solution. The pan should be large enough to accommodate the amount of product you are using and still enable you to vigorously agitate the leaves, as described below. The amount of soap should be enough to make the water feel slippery and be sudsy.

3. Submerge leaves in the pan of water for 3-5 minutes.

4. Agitate the leaves in the water so that the soapy solution loosens insects that are gripping the leaves’ surface.

5. Under a heavy stream of water, rinse the leaves in a colander, shaking the colander in such a way that the water covers all of the leaves held within it.

6. Examine samples of the leaves for surface insects and leaf miners.

NOTE: At first one will need to check as much as 50% of the leaves. Once a person masters this procedure, however, he can decrease the quantity of leaves that he checks.

 

7. If the samples are completely clean of insects, all of the produce can be used.

8. If insects are found in the samples, all of the produce should be checked.

Broccoli

Broccoli can be heavily infested with aphids. In fact, it is possible to find even more than a dozen aphids in a single floret!

It is important to note that raw broccoli cannot be effectively inspected. Insects are embedded in the very depths of the floret, and it is impossible to inspect the depths of a raw broccoli floret without ruining and breaking apart the floret.

 

Steps for cleaning broccoli:


1. Par-boil the broccoli or microwave it for 2-3 minutes. (The advantage of par-boiling is that it makes the broccoli florets more pliable and it often causes the insects to turn brown, thereby allowing one to sight the insects easily.)

2. Inspect the under-part and inside the depths of the florets for insects.

3. Each and every floret must be carefully inspected.
Broccoli Slaw

Broccoli slaw does not need to be checked for insects.

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts can be infested with insects and cannot be properly inspected while keeping the sprouts intact. Therefore, Brussels sprouts are not recommended.

Cabbage

Green cabbage

Green cabbage has a waxy texture; therefore, thrips slide off of cabbage even more easily than they slide off of other vegetables. In order to check cabbage, one must inspect the surfaces of the cabbage leaves thoroughly. Unlike Romaine lettuce, cabbage that grows in the form of a tight ball needs to have only its first 5-6 layers checked. (Each layer consists of two leaves.) Therefore, if one checks the 10-12 outermost leaves and finds that they are entirely free of insects, one need not check further, and one can safely assume that the rest of the cabbage head is free of insects, too. If, however, one finds insects in the outer layers, one will need to inspect the cabbage leaves almost until the core of the head.

Stuffed cabbage

Steps for cleaning cabbage for the use of stuffed cabbage:


1. Freeze the cabbage for 48 hours.

2. Thaw the cabbage enough to enable you to remove the leaves.

3. Under a heavy stream of running water, open ALL folds and crevices in the cabbage leaves and rinse thoroughly.

After one has performed these steps, the cabbage need not be checked.

Red cabbage

Red cabbage is much less prone to infestation than green cabbage and therefore does not need inspection. However, at least the first five layers of red cabbage must be washed well before use.

Prewashed cabbage

Prewashed cabbage coming from a national company such as Dole can be used.

 

NOTE: This pertains only to cabbage and not to any other prewashed produce.

Cauliflower

In cauliflower insects are often wedged between the tightly-packed florets. Because the florets are so tightly packed, it is difficult for one to check raw cauliflower for insects.

 

Updated method for cleaning cauliflower:


1. Cook cauliflower for 5 minutes.

2. After removing the cauliflower from the water, examine the water for black insects.

3. If no insects are found in the water, take several florets and examine them for insect presence by opening up the tightly-packed floret and examining the under-part and inside several of the florets.

4. If, upon examining a sample of the cauliflower, no insects are found, the entire cauliflower can be used.

5. If insects are found in the water, the cauliflower should not be used.

Celery

Celery can contain insects in both its leaves and its stem. To render celery insect-free, one should remove the celery leaves and then, with one’s thumb or a vegetable brush, follow through the canal on the outside of the celery under a stream of running water.

Although in the past years celery has been known to be a vegetable that is very easy to inspect (one would simply run his/her thumb or use vegetable wash to clean the celery’s surface), in recent years celery has been found to contain leaf miners. Therefore, before washing the celery stalk, one should examine both the inside and the outside of the stalk for leaf miner trails. If a tunnel is found, one should cut that part off of the celery stalk or discard the whole stalk.

 

NOTE: Leaf miner trails can indicate the presence of an actual leaf miner in the celery. Therefore, celery should be checked for leaf miner trails.

Corn

Although for the most part corn is not considered a Miut Hamatzui, it is recommended that after cooking the corn one should examine the top of the water for insects. If one finds insects in the water, one should not use the corn.

Leeks

Although leeks are often very dirty, they have not been found to be infested.

Lettuce

Hearts of Romaine

The following process has been proven effective in removing insects from leafy vegetables. This process only works when the steps discussed below are followed exactly, patiently, and very thoroughly.

Because Hearts of Romaine is a premium product that companies watch carefully, it is less prone to infestation; nonetheless, Hearts of Romaine still contain insects.

 

Steps for cleaning Hearts of Romaine:


1. Separate leaves from the stem.

2. Fill a pan with water and a soapy solution. The pan should be large enough to accommodate the amount of product you are using and still enable you to vigorously agitate the leaves, as described below. The amount of soap should be enough to make the water feel slippery and be sudsy.

3. Submerge leaves in the pan of water for 3-5 minutes.

4. Agitate the leaves in the water so that the soapy solution loosens insects that are gripping the leaves’ surface.

5. Under a heavy stream of water, thoroughly rinse each leaf individually. Every leaf must be totally opened when rinsing, exposing ALL folds and crevices, especially small folds found at base of the leaf.

6. Confirm that the leaves are insect-free. As an additional precaution, it is recommended that after removing the leaves from the water but before rinsing the leaves one should look at the water to see how many insects are floating there. If one finds insects, this is indicative that the rinsing must be done more aggressively and that the amount of leaves to be checked must be increased. At the beginning one must check a large portion of the leaves, up to almost 50%, to ascertain that one has followed all of the steps satisfactorily and that the washing process has been so effective that it is in lieu of checking every single leaf. (As time progresses and one masters the washing procedure, one can reduce the amount of leaves that one checks.)

7. If, upon checking a random sample of leaves, one finds even one insect, one must repeat steps 1-5 more carefully.

The above procedure must be repeated as many times as is necessary until the inspected leaves are completely free of insects.
NOTE: BecauseHearts of Romaineare less prone to insects than other types of lettuce, one who has mastered the procedure does not need to check more than 20% of the leaves for insects after performing the procedure carefully and meticulously. If, after randomly checking 20% of the cleaned leaves, one finds no insects, one can be rest assured that the other 80% is insect-free, too.

 

NOTE: Nowadays small and convenient light-boxes are sold. It would be worthwhile for a person to use a light-box to check leaves efficiently and comprehensively. An alternative to a light-box is inspecting the leaves in such a manner that the leaves are illuminated from below rather than from above.

Whole Romaine lettuce

In contrast to Hearts of Romaine, ordinary Romaine lettuce is more prone to insects. Therefore, after one performs the procedure detailed above (under Hearts of Romaine), one must check all of the leaves before one can be sure that the batch is insect-free.

Iceberg lettuce

One should perform the procedure detailed above (under Hearts of Romaine), but one must examine a larger sample of Iceberg lettuce leaves than of Hearts of Romaine.

Other lettuces: bib, Boston, green-leaf, and red-leaf

These lettuces are curlier than Hearts of Romaine. Therefore, when dealing with these lettuces, one should follow the procedure described above, (under Hearts of Romaine), and then inspect a high percentage of the leaves. Until one becomes proficient, one will need to inspect at least 50% of the lettuce leaves before one can be absolutely certain that the washing procedure has yielded a totally clean product.

 

NOTE:As insects tend to hide in folds and crevices, curlier leaves are more difficult to clean. Therefore, whenever possible one should avoid curlier leaves (e.g., use flat-leaf spinach and flat-leaf parsley instead of the curlier leaves).

Mushrooms

Most types of mushrooms do not contain insects and can be used without being inspected at all.

Portobello mushrooms

Portobello mushrooms can contain flies in the fan beneath the cap of the mushrooms. Therefore, one should scoop out the fan from the Portobello mushrooms and wash the mushrooms thoroughly before using them.

Onions

Onions have, at times, been found to contain thrips. In general, firm and healthy-looking onions are free of insects and need not be checked. Only onions that are softer than usual or show signs of decay or rotting are prone to contain insects. Such onions should be inspected by examining several layers of the onion for thrips. (Thrips are dark and therefore quite discernible on the surface of an onion.)

Radicchio

Radicchio is a bitter-tasting lettuce that is not infested with insects. Therefore, one can use radicchio after washing it thoroughly.

Scallions/Green Onions

The insects most commonly found in scallions are translucent thrips, which are often found near the area where the chutes emerge from the scallion’s stem (starting from where the chutes come out of the stem and descending 1-1.5 inches below this point). Thrips can also be found crawling along the outer side of the green chutes.

A second type of insect that scallions contain is the leaf miner. The presence of a leaf miner would be marked by zigzag trail patterns found on the scallion chutes.

Steps for cleaning scallions:


1. Cut the entire scallion vertically, from top to bottom. (Preferably, one should also slip open the green chutes.)

2. With your finger, take apart the thin layers at the bottom of the scallion.

3. Thoroughly rinse the scallion, allowing a heavy stream of water to run over the scallion and in between the scallion chutes; the layers at the bottom of the scallion must be loosened and run under heavy stream water.

4. Additionally, look for zigzagging trail patterns on the scallion chutes.

5. If such a trail is found, the affected area must be cut off of the chute and discarded.

Spinach

Steps for cleaning spinach:


1. Separate leaves from the stem.

2. Fill a pan with water and a soapy solution. The pan should be large enough to accommodate the amount of product you are using and still enable you to vigorously agitate the leaves, as described below. The amount of soap should be enough to make the water feel slippery and be sudsy.

3. Submerge leaves in the pan of water for 3-5 minutes.

4. Agitate the leaves in the water so that the soapy solution loosens insects that are gripping the leaves’ surface.

5. Under a heavy stream of water, rinse the leaves in a colander, shaking the colander in such a way that the water covers all of the leaves held within it.

6. Examine samples of the leaves for surface insects and leaf miners.

NOTE: At first one will need to check as much as 50% of the leaves. Once a person masters this procedure, however, he can decrease the quantity of leaves that he checks.

 

7. If the samples are completely clean of insects, all of the produce can be used.

8. If insects are found in the samples, all of the produce should be checked.

How to check herbs


Steps for cleaning dill, parsley, rosemary, thyme, sage, and coriander:


NOTE:It is recommended that before cleaning herbs, one should ascertain that they are worthwhile to clean and not too heavily infested. To do this, one should bang the herbs vigorously on a white surface, such as a paper towel. If insects crawl out of the herb upon the first one or two bangs, one should not use these herbs.

 

NOTE: Oftentimes dill and parsley are wet because they are sprayed for freshness in the supermarket. If the herbs are wet, banging the herbs will not be effective. Only if the herbs are dry should one bang them to determine whether they are very infested.

1. Fill a pan with water and a soapy solution. The pan should be large enough to accommodate the amount of product you are using and still enable you to vigorously agitate the herbs, as described below. The amount of soap should be enough to make the water feel slippery and be sudsy.

2. Submerge herbs in the pan of water for 3-5 minutes.

3. Agitate the herbs in the water so that the soapy solution loosens insects that are gripping the herbs’ surface.

4. Under a heavy stream of water, thoroughly rinse each leaf individually. Every leaf must be totally opened when rinsing, exposing all folds and crevices that the herb might have.

5. Fill a glass receptacle, preferably a rectangular or square glass pan (such as Pyrex), with clear water, and soak the herbs inside.

6. After a moment or two, agitate the herbs vigorously and then remove them from the water.

7. Carefully examine the water for aphids, thrips, and mites.

 

NOTE: For easier insect recognition, it is recommended for one to place the glass pan on top of a light (such as a light-box) so that that the water is illuminated from below. One who uses a lot of herbs will find that a light-box makes insect inspection more efficient.

8. If the water is completely clear of insects, the herbs are ready to be used.

9. If the water is not completely clear of insects, one must repeat steps 1-7.

 

NOTE: If one is cleaning a large quantity of herbs and does not wish to inspect the water, one can replace steps 5-9 with the following steps:

5. Place a white cloth over the pan (similar to a white cloth diaper), and pour the water out of the pan through this cloth (thereby using the cloth as a sieve).

6. Place the cloth onto the light-box and examine it for insects.

7. If the cloth contains no insects, the herbs are ready to be used.

8. If the cloth contains at least one insect, one must repeat steps 1-6.

NOTE: When one finds insects, one must repeat the entire procedure as many times as is necessary until the water (or cloth) is completely free of insects. (At times it can be necessary for a person to repeat the entire procedure 2-3 times before the herbs become insect-free.)

One who merely wishes to flavor a soup with herbs can wash the herbs and then place them inside a Bodek bag (a garnet bag), which can be placed inside the soup.

Dried herbs and spices

Dried herbs and spices can be used without any inspection if they have a proper hechsher.

How to Check Berries

Strawberries

Steps for cleaning strawberries:


1. Carefully cut off the green leaf on top of the strawberry without making a hole in the top of the berry. (If the hole is exposed, one should cut the strawberry in half.)

2. Take approximately one teaspoon of concentrated vegetable wash for every half-gallon of water. (The amount of water and vegetable wash will vary depending on the amount of berries being washed.)

3. Place strawberries into this soapy solution and vigorously agitate them in the water.

4. After all of the berries have been vigorously agitated in the water, allow the berries to soak in the soapy solution for 5 minutes.

5. While holding each strawberry in your hand, place the berry under a heavy stream of water, completely rotating the berry from top to bottom and from side to side. When a strawberry has a crevice or indentation, the strawberry should be cut in half and then washed. (Alternatively, that area could be cut away.)

After this procedure, and primarily the rinsing of the strawberries, has been followed meticulously, the berries can be dried and eaten, and no inspection will be necessary.

Raspberries

It has been found that most raspberry cartons contain insects. Therefore, raspberries fall into the category ofMuchzak Bitolaim. The only way to serve raspberries is by splitting each raspberry in half and then examining each carefully for thrips. This is not practical.

Blackberries

Blackberries are similar to raspberries and should preferably be avoided.

Blueberries

Blueberries cultivated in Grade A only need a simple washing before use.

Please remember that the Chachmas Adam writes, as a general guideline, that one should look at the food on his plate before eating so that one can avoid the many transgressions that might result should one mistakenly eat an insect.

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Ask a Question

Rabbi Eisen can be reached via email, at vaha2002@aol.com, to answer questions.