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4 easy ways to remove pesticide residues in vegetables

Clockwise from left: Dr. Susan F. Calumpang; Leafy greens used in salads should be washed thoroughly using the procedures mentioned in this column if they have not been exposed to heat.; and boiling eggplant reduces pesticide residue.

Clockwise from left: Dr. Susan F. Calumpang; Leafy greens used in salads should be washed thoroughly using the procedures mentioned in this column if they have not been exposed to heat.; and boiling eggplant reduces pesticide residue.

People are getting increasingly health-conscious these days. They want pesticide-free vegetables and other food products. They don’t mind paying a higher price for vegetables that are claimed to be organic or those grown without using chemical pesticides.

The sad truth, however, is that there is not enough organically grown vegetables in the country. Most of the vegetables we eat are produced the conventional way. This means the farmers usually use chemical pesticides to protect the plants from pests and diseases.

At any rate, here are four easy ways to remove pesticide residues in the vegetables we cook. Dr. Susan May F. Calumpang of UP Los Baños (UPLB)shared with us the four easy techniques. She is concerned because one can never be sure whether or not the vegetables available in the market have been sprayed with chemical pesticides before harvest.

She is a scientist who is a member of the Crop Protection Cluster of the College of Agriculture in Los Baños whom we met at the recent UPLB Media TechKnow Talks at a Quezon City restaurant. To be safe, here are her practical suggestions.

1. Mix two teaspoons of vinegar into four cups of water and use this for soaking your vegetables for two minutes. This can reduce insecticide residues by up to 80 percent.

2. Mix 10 drops of liquid detergent into one liter of water and use this to wash your vegetables. Afterwards, rinse the vegetables in running tap water. This can reduce insecticide residue by 67 to 88 percent.

3. Boil vegetables. Insecticides are destroyed and broken down when they react to heat and water.

4. Broiling or grilling vegetables is another way of reducing pesticide residues. Eggplant is one vegetable that is usually broiled or grilled.

Dr. Calumpang led a team of researchers that made a research study to establish mitigating measures to minimize pesticide residues in intact and fresh-cut vegetables and sprouts. The study was funded by PCAARRD, an agency of the Department of Science and Technology.

The research team recommends that fresh vegetables used in salads should be washed thoroughly using the above procedures if they have not been exposed to heat.

By the way, Dr. Calumpang, who is an assistant to the UPLB vice chancellor for research and extension, specializes in chemical ecology which is the study of chemicals emitted by plants that affect insect behavior. Her studies, in collaboration with other researchers, have already resulted in pest control techniques that can be used to protect crops without the use of chemical pesticides.

One example: The placement of leafy stalks of “Tagbak” in rice fields can reduce green leaf hopper infestation which is the vector of the very destructive tungro disease in rice. Tagbak is a wild member of the ginger family found in many places in the country.