Book Extract #2: Mythbusting: Pesticides on Fruit

People often buy “organic” fruit on the supposition that pesticides are not used during its growth.  Quite apart from the fact that the term “organic” means precisely nothing, the presence or absence of pesticides during growth of the fruit is utterly inconsequential.

This is not the case in all parts of the world, but it is most certainly the case in Australia, which places very strict controls on the type and amount of chemicals that may be used on crops.  This is administered by a federal authority called the APVMA (Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority).

This organisation is extremely conservative in both the pesticides that it allows growers to use, and the amounts that they can use.  Their permits are based upon both medical data and testing of fruit that has been sprayed under various conditions.  In fact the limits they impose are so conservative that they have caused a great deal of disquiet amongst growers, who feel that they are unnecessarily restrictive in terms of the limits that they set.

But the upshot of this from the consumer point of view is that you may rest assured that the fruit on the shelves in your supermarket has nowhere near any levels of pesticides that could even come close to doing you any harm whatsoever.  And note that these restrictions apply to not only the amounts that can be sprayed, but the actual choice of insecticide in the first place, with several insecticides that have been successfully used for years having now been banned.

So in effect there is no insecticide on any fruit that you buy.  You may still wish to wash it, perhaps to wash bacteria off the surface from having been handled, but you don’t need to worry about pesticides.

Book extract#1: How to Clean Saucepans

This is an area where you can throw out all your heavy scourers, your steel wool, and everything else your parents taught you about washing saucepans.  It is also an area where washing soda will outperform everything, including Morning Fresh.

They can be cleaned quickly by hand, or the lazy way.

The hand cleaning way, as described above, is to add a bit of warm water to the saucepan, sprinkle in some washing soda, then use your sponge to rub it all around.  It will very quickly take off all the oil and grease and you can just tip it out and rinse.  Note – this will not do a particularly good job of removing baked on material on the bottom.  To get this off you will have to use the lazy way.

The lazy way of cleaning pots and pans is to simply half fill the pan with cold water, tip in half a cup of washing soda (you don’t even have to go to the bother of dissolving it), and bring it to the boil.

After it boils, turn it off, let it cool and then tip it out and rinse.  Whatever is left behind will easily wipe away with a sponge, including baked on stuff.

The removal of baked on material in the bottom of saucepans actually relies on two effects – the chemical activity of the washing soda, and the physical effect brought about by the different expansion rates of the metal saucepan and the baked on carbon.

Metals of course expand when they get hot.  So does everything else, including carbon, but not at the same rate.  So as the saucepan heats the metal expands away from the carbon thus breaking the adhesion.  Once it does this the washing soda does the rest.

Incidentally, this is a good camping trick.  If you are camping and you “do the dishes” with your washing soda and still have baked on carbon in your cast iron saucepans, an alternative to the method I’ve suggested above is that you use the heat of the fire to do the job for you. Just toss the saucepan into the fire (or on the edge if it has a wooden handle) and leave it.

Once it cools you will probably find that the carbon that had been baked on before will now just brush off with your hand.  Note – don’t try this trick with aluminium saucepans as they can melt in the fire (aluminium has a lower melting point than iron).