Hundred-year-old Advice on How to Prepare Raw Vegetables for Storing and Eating

Here’s some hundred-year-old advice on how to clean and store raw vegetables:

Separate leaves or stalks into their natural divisions.

First. Examine them carefully, removing interior portions, insects, etc., that may be found on the vegetables.

Second. Wash thoroughly in several waters. Running water is preferable. Salted water aids in removing parasites.

Third. Drain off the water and dry with cheese cloth.

Greens may be kept in a paper bag in the refrigerator until serving time.

Coarser portions may be utilized for soups or sauces while the tender portions may be served raw. Great care should be exercised in the selection and preparation of food which is not subjected to heat before serving, such as salad greens. Salad plants, carelessly cultivated or handled may carry dangerous bacteria, or they may have been sprinkled with poisonous compounds.

The Housewife’s Cook Book by Lilla Frich (1917)

17 thoughts on “Hundred-year-old Advice on How to Prepare Raw Vegetables for Storing and Eating

  1. Completely the opposite of the modern advice to clean at the point of preparation. Certainly I notice that vegetables cleaned then not immediately used go off more quickly without their earthy crust (I’m talking about root veg. of course, but I don’t clean any veg. before using them). I must say the for me, one wash is normally enough too.

  2. I was surprised by Margaret’s comment. I’ve never heard the advice to clean at the point of preparation. I always clean as soon as I bring them home (except for potatoes and such). One water will do it for me, though, and it may be that since I purchase in small quantities and use them quickly, there’s no problem. The advice sounds pretty much like what I was raised with, and what I’ve always followed.

    The reference to “poisonous compounds” did surprise me a bit. I’d never thought of people using chemicals back in the day.

    1. Like you, I wondered about the reference to “poisonous compounds,” so a googled history of pesticides, and found this on the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) site:

      “Up until the 1940s inorganic substances, such as sodium chlorate and sulphuric acid, or organic chemicals derived from natural sources were still widely used in pest control. However, some pesticides were by-products of coal gas production or other industrial processes. Thus early organics such as nitrophenols, chlorophenols, creosote, naphthalene and petroleum oils were used for fungal and insect pests, whilst ammonium sulphate and sodium arsenate were used as herbicides. The drawback for many of these products was their high rates of application, lack of selectivity and phytotoxicity.”

        1. I agree – it’s easy to look at the past through rose-colored lens, but there definitely were some things that weren’t good back then.

  3. Wow! This is interesting in so many ways. I think I do remember the days of searching the food to be sure it’s free of worms and bugs. But I’m interested to see that even that early there was a pesticide warning. (At least that’s the way I read it.)

  4. I soak wormy greens in salt water before washing and cooking as it does removes the little green things that are hard to see.

    1. I know that when I immerse leaf lettuce that bugs occasionally float to the surface. It’s good to know that salt water helps get them separated from the greens even better.

    1. It’s nice to hear that you learn “new” things from this site full of old tips. Some tips are keepers that stand the test of time. πŸ™‚

  5. Interesting. I wash my veges before we eat them not when I purchase them. I’ve never immersed lettuce, but will try it to see what floats to the top…hopefully nothing.

    1. I tend to think that things are more likely to float to the top when bringing in freshly cut leaf lettuce from the garden than when purchasing it at the store. πŸ™‚

  6. Hi Sheryl, I just bought some lettuce at the Farmers Market and put your good advice to use. Oh my gosh! I had no idea so many bugs, worms and floaty things would come to the surface. I almost don’t want to eat it. LOL Just thought I’d let you know how much I learn from your blog. πŸ™‚ Thanks.

    1. Yuck – at least you got rid of the bugs and other floaty things. Thank you for for kind words It’s wonderful hear that you learn useful things from this blog.

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