Sunday, November 12, 2006

How do you wash grapes?

I got food poisoning a couple weeks ago, during an otherwise lovely trip to Portugal. While it's probably pointless to try to figure out how, I do wonder about a bunch of things.
  • Generally, how long before food poisoning takes effect? Must the cause have been the same day I got sick? The day before? Within a couple hours? The meal I was eating when I started feeling sick was a hotel buffet. Nobody else got sick.
  • I drank local water, because locals do; I drink a lot of water and it's not always easy to buy a new bottle while it is often easy to refill. How likely is it that local water is fine for locals but not for visitors who may not be adapted to the local endemic bacteria? Is it possible that the rainstorms and small floods during my week in Portugal (apparently the only week of rain the whole year) may have worsened the water supply during my visit? I had been drinking local water for a week before I got sick.
  • I shared from a plate of steamed clams a day or two before getting sick, and the first one I bit into clearly had ice crystals. How did one "steamed" clam stay half frozen? Did they toss it on at the end? Nobody else who shared the clams got sick.
  • I bought some grapes from a small fruit stand. I washed them all and kept them in my hotel room for a few days. I certainly didn't get sick on the first bunch of grapes I ate. Is it possible that I didn't wash them well enough and the bacteria grew over time? How do you wash grapes?
Somehow it's that last question which bugs me, seeming so simple. How do you wash grapes? They're fragile and nearly impossible to scrub or even rub individually. Should one soak them? Spray them from several angles with a decent pressure spray? Put them in a colander and allow water to run over for a longish period of time? Most search hits for "how to wash grapes" say simply to "wash carefully" just before eating (rather than before storing), but a few food sites mention "cold running water" or "gentle spray". Is this any good at all besides rinsing out a bit of grit?


Barry Leiba said...

Quote: Generally, how long before food poisoning takes effect? Must the cause have been the same day I got sick? The day before? Within a couple hours?

"Food poisoning" is too general a term to answer that about it. Bacterial infections, such as by Salmonella or toxogenic E. coli strains, generally incubate in as little as 8 hours or as much as 2 or 3 days — the key is getting sufficient bacterial growth to make you sick. But there are other food-borne agents that can make you sick — parasites, chemicals, even viruses — and the timing varies widely.

Mark said...

I got sick in Morocco a few weeks ago, and I suspect grapes (from a restaurant) were the culprit. It took about 18 hours for the, er, symptoms to appear. When I got home I was tested and was told it was a pretty nasty E-coli strain... but nothing that Cipro couldn't take care of lickity-split.

Anonymous said...

Two times in a row, I've broke out with watery eyes when I have been around grapes before they were washed. I've found the best way is to take them off the stems while holding under COLD running water. I then put them in a colander & keep running cold wate over them, pouring them over into a regular bowl filling it with the cold water & back into the calander several times. I then put them on paper towels on the counter, turn on the ceiling fan & leave to dry naturally for a few hours. Then, store them in a zip lock bag in the fridge & have had no problems with them.

CommonSenseMom said...

I use a drop of dishsoap and some agitation. Works like a charm!

See my method here.

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