1920 Advice: Wash Fruit Before Serving

Washing fruit under running water
Source: Household Arts for Home and School (1920) by Anna M. Cooley and Wilhelmina Spohr

Is it important to wash fruit before eating? Of course, the answer is “yes.” According to the National Health Service:

It is always advisable to wash all fruit and vegetables before you eat them to ensure they are clean and to help remove bacteria from the outside.

Similar advice has been around for a long time. According to a 1920 home economics textbook:

All fruits that are eaten raw should be thoroughly washed. One never knows what has come in contact with the fruit through the handling or from exposure to the dirt and dust of the streets. Woman shaking dust mop; dust landing on fruit

Even oranges, grapefruit, lemons, bananas, and melons, whose skins are to be discarded, should be washed and wiped to remove surface dirt. Small fruits such as grapes and berries should be thoroughly rinsed just before serving; they should never be allowed to stand in water. 

Household Arts for Home and School (1920) by Anna M. Cooley and Wilhelmina H. Spohr

38 thoughts on “1920 Advice: Wash Fruit Before Serving

  1. Oh, phooey. If fruits are dirty and dusty from the streets, or fresh from a pile in the grocery store, sure. But picked from a tree or vine? There’s another rule: two for the basket, one for the mouth!

  2. Love the second drawing,that lady must of sure had some serious dust issues.😂😂 fruit brought home from the grocery gets wash but fruit picked from the farm here .. well I’m like Shoreacres..two for the basket or maybe mouth.

  3. I recently read to add a dash of vinegar to rinse water for berries. It helps them keep a bit longer. But not for raspberries. I find I just use raspberries as soon as i get them.

  4. Too often I see grocery shoppers taking ans eating a grape right out of bag, testing them I guess.

    1. I’ve also seen people eat grapes at the store. It doesn’t seem like a good idea – both from safety and an ethical perspectives.

  5. Yes and yes again! Ever since my SIL and her whole family got food poisoning from cutting up a melon without washing it, well, we wash everything.

    1. Whew – it’s scary how they got sick form eating a melon without washing it. If there was anything that I might skip washing, it would be a melon.

  6. This made me smile! My mother was a germ fanatic (to a certain extent) and washed all fruits and vegetables. She even soaked lettuce in salt water to kill any bugs and then rinsed it several times before tearing it into a salad. She taught me well although I don’t wash oranges! It’s good advice especially for the time we are living through!

    1. You comment reminds of of other tips that I’ve seen in hundred-year-old books and magazines that explained how to get bugs out of lettuce before serving. With store-bought lettuce that doesn’t seem to be much of a concern today, but apparently it was a major problem back in the day.

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