The Melon Washer

washing charentais melon

I happily eat raw-milk cheese. I’ll dive into steak tartar without any fear. And heck, I drink horse milk like it’s going out of style. (Actually, if someone could tell me that drinking horse milk never was in style, that’d be great, so I can stop drinking it…) But I have a confession to make: I wash melons.

melon sorbet

Even though I usually buy Charentais or Cavaillon melons that are grown in France, there have been too many large-scale recalls of melons in the states, and probably elsewhere, so I started washing melons a few years ago.

It’s a simple step that supposedly removes any harmful bacteria, and probably few pesticides as well, which gets dragged through the fruit once you slice through the rind.

Does anyone else routinely do this?

Related Posts

Métro Hands

Why You Should Wash a Melon Before Chowing Down (NPR)

Is it just me?

Guide to Washing Fresh Produce (Colorado State University)

Does Washing Fruits and Vegetables Make them Safe? (Live Science)

86 comments

  • No, you’re not being paranoid. Better be safe than sorry. I wash fruits and veg using biodegradable washing liquid and water.

  • No…you are not paranoid. It is actually an issue of food safety. All melons are to be scrubbed before cutting them. Salmonella that is carried on the rind of the melon can be transferred to the cutting board and onto the fruit. Good job for keeping up on things!!

  • I wash all my fruits and veggies. But I believe if the fruit/veg is really “contaminated” (like the spinach recalled throughout California a few months ago) washing even with soap will not help. The contamination comes from the soil/water where the fruit/veg is grown, so it’s actually part of the entire fruit — not just on the outside. Yuck. Still a good practice to wash with soap, since many hands touch our food before we eat it.

    That sorbet looks divine, by the way.

  • I actually put all my melons in my washer for 28 minutes on warm.

  • I always rinse my melons thoroughly in water, but you may have inspired me to step it up a notch and start using soap. I do it for the same reason: contaminants on the rind get “cut” into the fruit. Yuck.

  • Funny. I was my own melons every day, but never bother washing anyone else’s.

  • Ok, I’ll be the voice of dissent. I don’t wash melons, I’ve never washed melons, and I probably won’t start now. Hope I don’t die! :-)

  • Funny. I wash my own melons every day, but never bother washing anyone else’s.

  • never use to until people started getting sick from cantalope. now I always rinse them off, may need to step it up a notch and use soap as well!

  • I do wash my melons, but not as thoroughly as you… I just scrub ‘em with with a sponge and water (and I throw my sponge in the microwave for 60 seconds a day, too).

  • I’d never thought about washing melons before, but it makes sense. I’ve only ever washed the skin of produce where I eat the skin, so things like onions and winter squashes don’t get washed. I might start doing this though; I just picked up a melon yesterday that’s still sitting in the kitchen.

  • David…

    Don’t get me wrong, better safe than sorry, but it seems like the chances are no different from getting sick from the fruit or raw milk. Personally, I would worry more about the source of the fruit, or raw milk if you like it, than anything else.

    Just me, but we all have our quirks… ;).

  • I do the same thing-my family thinks I’m crazy for using soap. Who knows where that melons been, who touched it and where have their hands been!!!???

  • hmm.. we always wash our fruits and vegetables in water… scrubbing, if necessary, but that’s just about it.

  • careful there! you’re going to scare ppl away from fruits and veggies and turn them into full-on carnivores! what’s the name for someone who eats only meat? opposite of vegetarian perhaps?

    i’ve never washed a melon before, but i’ve scrubbed an apple!

  • I grow my own watermelons and I wash them with soap and water, I don’t have to worry about pesticides, but I know that slugs have been crawling around on them, and the thought of eating slug slime, even just a little bit, really grosses me out. Plus I will be happy to tell you that drinking horse milk was never, ever in style. Some German foreign exchange students that went to my high school would try to disagree, but nothing doing.

  • by the way, that is the most beautiful photo of a soapy melon i have ever seen. great photography.

  • It never even occurred to me to wash melons! And I must have been totally out of it when they were last recalled, because I don’t remember it. What irks me are the recent recalls on green onions, tomatoes and jalapenos. Can’t they just post warnings, instead of completely removing them from sale? How about a little Caveat Emptor here and let us decide for ourselves? I’m not a child, a senior citizen or immuno-suppressed and I’d like to be able to decide for myself whether to take a chance on miniscule risk of salmonella.

    Thanks for letting me vent.

  • Never once have I even seen a melon washed, except to rinse of some clinging dirt and that was so my Grandmother wouldn’t take a shoe to my Pappy for messing up the kitchen.

  • I’ve never washed them before but never thought about the knife dragging the bugs through.

  • I wash anything and everything and am horrified when people don’t. I teach fourth graders and had a student who routinely ate his apples unwashed, sticker and all!

  • I was all my fruit and vegetables with a diluted soap wash, minus those with leafs i.e. lettuce, spinach.

    I don’t blame you at all.

  • I do, because there aren’t too many handwashing facilites out in the fields for the pickers. Nothing they can do about it, but there is something I can. Milk handlers and cheese makers, on the other hand, do tend to have running water in the area.

    Oh, and Samantha, you are a dirty girl! ;) *snicker*

  • I wash melons, lemons, pretty much everything. I have learned way too much about food safety to ignore it.

  • So, David do you wash your bananas too?

    I was just a part of a conversation last week about the same thing. You can get carried away. One person talked about how they always use a sanitizing solution after they touch a menu! After all, you don’t know who/where it’s been.

  • We were never allowed to eat these wonderful melons holidaying in France as kids the story being that they were either fattened by leaving them in the sewers or irrigated with raw sewage. So you may well want to wash all your melons although that was in another time when you couldn’t drink the water.

  • I wash my melons and other vegetables too, with some soap that won’t leave some bad taste on the product. I usually take marseille soap, the transparent liquid kind. I tried once with dishwashing soap, the taste left was disgusting. Yikkes !

    A few years before, i had the bad habit not to rince my vegetables, they looked so clean and fresh from the supermarket… But once i’ve tried and felt the nearly completely new taste of one cucumber after washing it, i could’nt help to wash toroughly any fruits and vegetables with hard enough skin :D . I’ts really frightening now to think about the amount of bad pesticides i’ve eaten those past years (maybe that explains why i tend to glow in the dark sometimes ! (i mean, without coffee popsicles :) )

  • Ladies I would be happy to wash your melons for you

  • Yes! All fruits and vegetables are washed with soap and water. Who knows what’s really on em’? Yuck-a-do!

  • I always scrub them with soap and water because they may have been fertilized with MANURE! ICK!

  • When I lived in South Korea I got into the habit of washing all my fresh produce. Actually, back then, it was recommended we use a bleach-water solution or phiso-hex due to their… ahem… fertilization methods. It’s one habit that I’ve happily stuck to since.

  • David — Thanks for your post! You’re being smart to wash those melons. As someone who writes about food, I am always harping on the need to pre-wash veggies (esp. leafy ones) and fruit, no matter how confident we are of their provenance. And nothing makes me angrier (well, almost) than those airheads with cooking shows on national networks who open up bags of prepared ingredients and dump them into salad bowls or use them for cooking with no attention to what they might be harboring. It takes so little time, and it can make a big difference in our health.
    PS Here in the States we have another problem with unwashed fruit: melons, papayas, etc., that have been cut in half and wrapped in plastic for our covenience. You can bet the guy in the back of the produce department never washed those beauties.

  • Aurgggghhh! What happened to your blog? I’m one of those people who take to change veeeerrryyyyy slowly, so it was a shock.

    However, no, I do not wash melons, since I buy most of them from the farmer’s market, where I know all those fabulous organic gardeners…………..

  • I was treated for one of those dysentery diseases when I lived in a third world country. It was not something I will ever forget. I not only wash the mellons, and most any fruit that sits on the ground, but I peel it too before I carve it up. Hey..I’ve earned my quirk.

  • David
    This is good practice, both as a professional preparing other peoples’ food and in your own home kitchen.

    Watermelons delivered by the pallet in a cardboard bin are filthy at best.
    Melons are often delivered in the case with mud from the field still on them.
    It does not appear that any effort was made to clean them up.
    Would you eat dirt from the field? Would you sprinkle it on your food?
    When you finally get around to washing your fruits and veggies before you prep them, do it in a large stainless bowl and look at what is left when you are done.
    You will never pass up this step again
    Enough said.

  • I wash all my fruits and veggies before I cut into them. The habit I got into with all lettuces and anything that touches dirt is to wash in a vinegar solution. I soak what I can and other items just gets washed and rinced.

    In France (Paris) where I live, there is a high chance there is Toxoplasmosis in the soil and since I always seem to be pregnant I wash my lettuce like crazy. Gotta watch out for Listeria too. Other than than I don’t worry to much, its the worry that can make you sick!

  • Not only do I wash melons, I wash anything I cut, including avocados, oranges, etc. I wash them not out of fear of farm or production pathogens, but because of store germs. Who knows if the guy who stacks your oranges follows hand washing protocol? Plus, they go on the belt at the check-out.

  • I thought I was the only one who did this! I am an admitted germophobe, but I’m glad to hear it’s not just me who thinks about these things. I always wash melons, and apples too.

  • One more reason I’m glad I now live in Australia, can’t think of a time when there was a fruit or veg recall. I don’t wash any fruit or veg and I didn’t when I lived in the States either, we only give the lettuce a rinse.

    I’m very anit-hand sanitizer too. I like the idea of kids eating dirt; builds up their immune system.

  • I actually know someone who got really sick after eating a melon that he sliced up without washing it first. So, washing with soap and water is definitely the way to go.

  • I actually don’t habitually wash any of my fruits and vegetables but I don’t think you are crazy for doing so. I think it is probably a very good idea. I’m not really sure why I don’t…I guess I’m just not in the habit.

  • I always wash melons, and any fruit with a rind I’ll be cutting into (lemons, limes, etc.), even if I’m not going to eat that rind.

    I am not germ-phobic, but it’s a fact that fruits don’t always stay in their crates at the market. Humans are humans, and produce handlers and customers sometimes drop the fruit they’re handling, or someone may sneeze into their hands, pick up a piece of fruit, then return it to the display (I once worked as a food demonstrator at Whole Foods. Trust me, things like this happen all the time). Heck, even soil from the farm can spread harmful bacteria from critters who’ve used it as a stomping ground (think of the spinach E-coli incident that came about from hogs running through a field of crops).

    It’s just a fact that the world is not always a sanitary place, and a quick wash under the sink can reduce chances of contamination. I’m on board with you, David!

  • I’ve been washing watermelons, cantaloupes and honeydew melons with soap and water since people got sick from contaminated cantaloupes a few years ago. Also, I no longer buy pre-cut fruits or fruit salads from supermarkets and such since I’ve no idea under what condition the fruits have been cut and prepped. Oy, it’s hard being us. ;-)

  • I’ve never done, but you may have convinced me. Right now my melons come from my neighbors’ patch, but I might buy one one day and I don’t want the crud either.

  • I wash melons to remove soil & grit, I use water & vinegar (less of a chance to leave a bad aftertaste, and apparently just as effective as many expensive germ-killer products). If the melons come from my garden or other known and trusted source, I just rinse with water to remove grit. I have not bought a supermarket melon in years.

    There are real concerns that using too many germ killing products (sanitizers) is having a counter effect: this stuff is finding its way into the environment breeding bacteria that are becoming resistant, and making us less prone to resist bacterial attacks – a double whammy!

    My Charentais are not ripe yet… neither are my watermelons… when oh when? that will teach me to do other things when I should have been cosseting seedlings in May…

  • Sylvie: I never use those hand sanitizers and rarely get sick. Nothing beats good ‘ol soap & water.

    But I always find it curious that people use hand sanitizers at the dining table. It’s like watching (and listening) to someone clipping their nails—or picking the link out of their belly button. Let’s keep our personal grooming in the privacy of the restroom, folks!

  • David, years ago I had an allergy to mold and my doctors told me that Melons contain loads of mold on their skins so I’ve been scrubbing melons ever since. And like others I wash everything before cutting into it. Bananas? No!

  • I wash melons, avocados, etc. Speaking of paranoid, I even washed bananas for a while because I’ve heard they are one of the dirtiest things out there but I gave that up because it got old fast.

  • Like a few others, I don’t think you’re crazy for washing melons. On the other hand, I don’t wash mine, and don’t plan to start. I don’t really wash any of my produce. Thus far I haven’t gotten sick.

  • I wash all melons. Plain soap and water works great. After being a Pastry Cook, I’m studying to be a Environmental Health Inspector. While going to a class to keep my Safety and Sanitation certificate up-to-date, there was a huge outbreak at a big hotel in SF caused by un-washed cantaloupes. What amazed me most was it was never on the news. I only heard about it because the Instructor for the class is a Food Inspector.

    Dirt, bugs, and even pesticides don’t bother me as much as knowing there aren’t enough proper, if any, bathrooms with handwashing facilites in the fields where produce is picked. And that means organic and non-organic farms. I go to a great organic farmer’s market in Berkeley and I still wash all produce.

  • Great post and great comments.

    I’m not a germophobe — if anything I’m bit of a germophile, if the term exists: I think a smattering of germs helps build immunities.

    But now I’m convinced to wash my melons. Slug slime? Mold? Ewww.

    How about melons ordered in restaurants, though?

  • Washing melons……..

    That’s something I have never even thought of. I wouldn’t be surprised if they dont get hosed off before being put in the supermarket, because I dont think I have ever seen a melon with dirt on it in a French supermarket (or in an English one, for that matter).

    Of course, when we buy melons they are local, so they won’t have been exposed to that dirty, northern, Paris air either. So that’s good.

    Especially as it’s la Belle Indienne season!

  • You won’t find ME washing *any* melons, I can’t stand the darned things (quite unAmerican, I know). tee hee!!

    But I think my husband would suggest washing them not with soap (he always thinks we’re going to be poisoned because I’ve supposedly left traces of dishsoap on a plate, a utensil, etc.) but with baking soda. Kind of like Sylvie’s vinegar.

    What do you think?

    ** funny that one time at our favorite Lebanese traiteur, the guy gave us a couple of free scoops of ice cream on top of our cones. unfortunately, he gave me melon, so I had to wait for my husband to eat that scoop before I could have mine!! I felt bad — of course I couldn’t say anything, because the guy was being super sweet, but as I saw him scooping that melon on to my ice cream I wanted to yell NO! STOP!

  • I soap up all my produce now except for greens. The water gets really hot so I am hoping that gets rid of the soap. Can the soap make me sick? Is vinegar or baking soda a better substitute?

    Once I found a mangled fly carcass in a just opened bag of pre-cut greens. No more pre-cut for me. So yeah, you should wash and inspect your pre-cut greens.

    I guess the less handling the better for the consumer. I would feel so much better about getting my produce from all over the world if growers would make some effort to keep the poopie out of the pea patch. Why is that so tough? Should consumers insist on it?

    This is a worthwhile topic.

  • I can understand that. There are a lot of nooks and crannies in melons where dirt can get stuck! Aint no shame.

  • Listen, I soap my eggs before cracking them. From my vantage point, you’re not washing enough. Horse milk? Does it taste like goat milk just warm and fresh out of the goat? If so…. oh Lord how revolting….

  • Always wash your melons and bananas using your hands and lots of soap, caressing as you clean. A pair of melons, each topped with a juicy berry and a ripe banana to accompany. Serve with split buttered buns and savor for a long luscious brunch.

  • Absolutely not -

    My graduate advisor told me of going on vacation with his partner some years back, and she got horribly ill from salmonella poisoning. Every time she began feeling a little better and ready to eat something, he fed her something he thought would help. Something light, and mild.

    He fed her melon – which is where she’d contracted the poisoning in the first place – and she’d get sick all over again …

  • I’ve never heard of washing melons before or anyone getting sick from them, other than because they ate too much of it. So I dont wash, rinse, peel, place in the dish washer, boil and or anything else, but then maybe south africa is behind the times….. ……but I might now that you’ve made me scared.
    Perhaps one should be more worried about insecticides etc that are systemic, and not merely residue on the skin.

  • You are not alone. I wash my melons, too. Gee, that sounded a little suggestive, eh? :) Melon washers of the world…U-N-I-T-E!!!
    ~Grace

  • Mr. D, could you please explain something to me? When I was in Paris earlier this week, I went to “Le Cafe du Commerce” and ordered the lunch menu for 16euros. When I got my bill, everything was listed as it was priced on the menu, then 19.6 percent tax was added to the total. This was the only restaurant in Paris that added this tax to the final total, so I was very surprised to have to pay the extra, even though it was brilliant value. I thought the menu prices were final, and already included service charges and taxes. Thanks.

  • i do this, too, so you aren’t paranoid (or maybe we both are). i also wash citrus and squash in soap and water. i buy a “plant based” liquid dish soap, which is quite mild, and use that to scrub my fruit and veg.

  • Nope. Never washed a melon. But I don’t really wash anything. And I leave things on the counter for way to long, eat raw meat in the car on the way home from the butcher and under cook pork. Whatever. I’m 40. Nothing is killed me so far I figure I have the antibodies.

  • Do you actually drink horse milk? Or did I miss something? Eww. Any ways, I work in a supermarket. Now what do many little kids do that includes fingers and nose holes? Yes and they have to wipe it somewhere. I have seen enough of people not washing their hands after the restroom and then out to shop for food. I am less worried about the world outside than what I see inside.

  • I’ve been washing my melons ever since I heard about what can happen if you don’t wash your melons. Another reason to grow your own, if it’s possible.

  • i totally don’t wash melons. sometimes i forget to wash other fruit as well. so far so good. though i totally agree with you on people doing inappropriate things at the dining table. like women who put on lipstick after eating. uhm…bathrooms have big mirrors in them! go put your lipstick on there.

  • i get heebie jeebies about eggs. esp when people separate eggs using the shell to pass back and forth. A HEN SHAT OUT THAT EGG. do you really want to be doing that???

  • cj: I was under the impression that the menu prices in Paris always included the TVA. I asked a few French friends for confirmation, and couldn’t get a straight answer (which seems to be a theme around here…) But I’ve eaten at Café du Commerce and am certain that menu prices were the final price.

    There’s a thread about this on eGullet, which you might find interesting.

    Jaden: I know. I once put an egg in the shell in my mouth, as a joke, and my co-workers started freaking out. Who knew?

  • Thanks for that information. When I queried the amount, the waitress explained the reason to me in fluent French (which I am not), and lots of finger pointing. Then another waiter came along and did the same thing. As much as I enjoyed the restaurant (and am not usually paranoid), I couldn’t help but feel like I was being taken for a bit of a ride, and it really pissed me off. However, it seemed like the only option I had was to pay, so I did. Next time I may try doing a runner!

  • Whoops… I never even thought to wash melons. That said, I take risks with things like eggs (I’m of the separation-by-shell camp and I’m firmly on team eat-the-raw-cookie-dough) and I have been known to eat grapes and cherries from the supermarket without washing them first. And sometimes without paying for them first. Thanks for the heads up — When I think of it, I’ll totally wash my canteloupe in future!

    PS your thing about separating the wire filaments from the paper on twist-ties cracked me up, I emailed it out to various OCD friends and they sent back notes full of knowing LOLs.

  • Curiously enough I’ve never even heard of anyone getting sick because of eating fruit or vegetables around here. Very surprising to hear that people get salmonella from lettuce! Could this be because of our cold climate or something else I’m not sure.

    I do rinse and peel all my fruit and vegetables (I peel plums and grapes too) but because of pesticides and fertilisers.

  • you are not being paranoid, it’s the most sensible thing to do… but i must say you must try goat milk too, there are lots of that here in our place. :-)

  • It has already been said, but yes, I wash all produce with soap and water, whether the skin is eaten or merely sliced through. It’s much more a concern about the many hands that have touched the food, rather than the visible dirt.

    Paranoid? Let’s see . . . that might call for a brief germicidal rinse with grain alcohol. Actually, not a bad idea.

  • You are not paranoid but very sensible. Years ago we didn’t wash melons-that was until the salmonella freak out hit. Salmonella was found to live on the outer surface of cantaloupes. If you wash the melons with soap and water you will save yourself alot of miserable tummy aches not to mention other disageeable symptoms.

  • I started doing this a few years ago as well — makes total sense and I also thought I was the only one!

  • OMG David…….I have NEVER washed mellons.((Unless I bought them from the farmers market ,with leftover mud))
    Now I do rinse meats under cool water,and thinks I’m nuts.
    I LOVE to cook and bake.
    I love the control I have TO PICK AND CHOOSE my foods., so yes i am very savy to germs,but I TRUST my amazing body to ward off most foreign substances…
    i USE COMMON SENSE……
    ANDI in VEGAS.

  • David,

    The University of Texas Department of Human Ecology (Nutrition) told me this summer that studies have shown that melons need to be washed in HOT water, not cold.

  • http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14540742

    you may want to use vinegar instead of soap.

  • you are not paranoid…. but now I am!!!
    Ali :)

  • Umm… the thought never crossed my mind – ditto avocados and citrus. Obviously I will rinse dirt off melons, and I do rinse anything with a skin I plan to eat thoroughly, but that’s more to get pesticides off. I’ve never even heard of a fresh produce recall – certainly never in 30 years in South Africa, nor the past 8 or so here in London. I have never owned a hand sanitizer and I have the immune system of a horse, apparently – nothing makes me sick.

    I put it down to eating on the Underground occasionally, and growing up in Africa ;-)

  • Eek! Please do not use soap on your fruits and veggies. Food scientists and the FDA agree that:

    1) Running water and a good scrub brush will do the job well.
    and
    2) The likelyhood of leaving soap residue on your food is fairly high. Soap was not developed for you to eat. Eating a small amount each day with your produce may do more harm to your system than whatever it is you’re trying to wash off.

    If you’re skeptical, please google “wash fruits vegetables soap” and see what comes up.

  • i’m french ….
    i never wash my melons,
    i eat the inside, not the skin
    ( the best way is to cut it in half and take a spoon, remove the seeds, and eat )

    raw milk cheese are really safe, the only problem we had in france was with industrialy processed, pasteurized milk cheese. ( something like 15 cases of listeria during the last 10 years, and i try to remember, less than 4 deaths )

  • I also wash everything. I either use a fruit-based soap or I spray with white vinegar and rinse with water.

  • I know the melons I get from the farm stand are fertilized with manure, and always have dirt on them. I only eat the “inside”, too, but since the knife can drag that stuff through it not to mention get on the cutting board YES I wash my melons!! Maybe dish soap is safer? Hmmm….

  • olivier; That’s true that one only eats the pulp, but when you slice through fruit, you drag anything that’s on the skin through to the flesh.

    Michelle: If possible, you may wish to use a cleaning agent that is noted that’s intended for washing food. Grocery stores and natural food stores often carry them.

  • I honestly never heard about washing melons. In Italy nobody does it. When I was a child, I used to eat organically grown peaches from my mother’s aunt. Sometimes, you could find a little caterpillar inside….never had a single problem or heard anybody about this. Most of food poisoning happens with meat, fish or shellfish.
    Btw: great blog!