We all know fruit and vegetable are a essential part of a healthy diet, there now seems to be more and more people growing their own, either at home in their own garden, shared community gardens or even down at the good old fashioned allotment. What are the implications of this………if any?

The benefits of eating lots of fruit and veg can help fight off chronic diseases, Its important to remember your five a day or what ever it is they are recommending this week!!! Include a variety of different fruit and veg when you do your weekly shop, or join the new revolution of growing your own, you get the pick of the crop and you could even save a few pennies.

What a better way to get physically active, save some money and also get to eat your hard earned efforts at the end of it. Gardening also has a positive impact to relieve stress and improve your mental well-being. Encouraging children to get involved may even in turn get them to eat more fruit and vegetables. (Well, that’s the idea)

Fruit and veg grown by yourself does not always resemble the produce bought in the supermarket.  Your own will come in a variety of mis-shapes and probably have a more fuller flavour than the shop bought produce, but sadly will not last as long. Supermarkets preserve their produce to look more appealing to the eye and to prolong its shelf life.

Your home grown veg will be at its best on the day you harvest, so either enjoy it on the day at its freshest or you could opt prolong its life using preservation methods i.e. pickling or freezing.

It is important to wash all fruit and vegetables before you eat them to ensure they are clean and safe to eat. Most people are aware of handling raw meat safely, but consider the risk of food poisoning from fruit and veg to be low.

Dr Andrew Wadge, chief scientist of the Food Standards Agency (FSA). Says “It’s a myth that a little bit of dirt doesn’t do you any harm,”

“Soil can sometimes carry harmful bacteria and, although food producers have good systems in place to clean vegetables, the risk can never be entirely eliminated.”

Those risks were highlighted in the 2011 Escherichia coli (E. coli) outbreak in the UK. Soil stuck on leeks and potatoes is thought to have been the source of the outbreak, which involved 250 cases of E. coli infection.

Most of the bacteria will be in the soil, washing to remove any soil is, therefore, particularly important.

Home grown produce tends to have more soil attached to it than pre-packaged fruit and vegetables that you will find in the supermarkets.

It is always advisable to wash all fruit and vegetables before you eat them to ensure that they are clean and to help remove bacteria from the outside. Brushing off excess dry soil may help reduce the amount of washing required

It’s also important to clean chopping boards, knives and other utensils after preparing vegetables to prevent cross-contamination.

Peeling or cooking fruit and vegetables can also help to reduce the bacteria.

Bacteria can get onto fruit and vegetables in several ways. This may be  in the water used for irrigation, organic fertilisers, or droppings from birds and other animals that visit your vegetable patch.

So you’ve laboured over your vegetable patch and harvested your first home grown produce, just don’t spoil it by not cleaning it, good luck and enjoy!