These zero waste ways to chop vegetables can show you how to easily tackle that large giant cauliflower you see at the farmers’ market. There is no need to feel intimidated, all you need is a good sharp knife (with a few safe knife skills), a good chopping board and some food safety tips.
Washing Produce Before You Chop
FDA Food Safety says that whether you buy organic or not, it’s more important to be concerned with general food safety (removing bacteria and dirt). Wash hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before/after preparing fresh produce, and cut away bruised/damaged areas. Rinse before you peel (so bacteria does not transfer to knife) and use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm items like melons and cucumbers.
Dry with a reusable towel (then wash) and remove outer leaves of lettuce and cabbage (store lettuce and watermelon in the fridge, ideally on ice). Cantaloupe can carry salmonella so store away from everything else. FDA is not a fan of commercial produce wash. Some say rinsing will get as much ‘chemical’ off as anything else. Or use (edible) baking soda to wash and rinse – find ‘recipes’ at Happy Herbivore.
Reusable produce bags (used to replace plastic bags in produce aisles) have a mesh design, which means not only are they good to store fresh veggies in at home, but they can double up as colanders, to wash veggies in the sink. You can then throw them in the machine, and use them again.
Zero Waste Chopping Boards
Plastic chopping boards tend to dull knives and harbour bacteria, so those made from wood or bamboo are better. However wooden chopping boards can’t be put in the dishwasher, so it’s important to keep them clean, as you obviously are preparing a lot of fresh food on them. Warm water and biodegradable dish soap is enough for daily use (make sure to scrub the other side) and rinse with hot water, dry upright.
For deep-cleaning, soak for a few minutes in a solution of 1 part cleaning vinegar (this is not food-grade) to 4 parts water (no more, or you’ll crack the wood). You can also clean it by using half a lemon to scrub a board sprinkled with coarse sea salt (let it sink in for a few minutes, then wash, rinse and dry).
Keep a damp tea towel under the chopping board, to stop it sliding around. A good large chopping board is also safer around pets, as it means it’s less likely for pet-toxic foods (like garlic and onion) to ricochet off the board and onto the floor.
Konk! Chopping Boards (Bristol) are made from leftover European oak (from handmade furniture) and sealed with food-safe oil. Bambu Chopping Boards are naturally anti-bacterial (the handhold doubles up as a food platter, finished with food-safe oil). Smidge Chopping Boards are made by compressing salvaged paper (happy in the dishwasher).
Choosing & Using Safe Knives
Good knives are not just better to chop, but safer too. Always choose knives that have forged handles (one singular piece of steel, so the blades won’t come away from wooden handles). Keep knives sharp and in a proper knife block (dancing around in a drawer is not safe, if someone sticks their hand in). Unless you’re a gourmet chef, you only need a few knives (and even less if you don’t eat meat or fish). You can get away with two knives: one to chop veggies and a paring knife. Stainless steel are good, as are ceramic (though they can sometimes chip).
Many chefs recommend Zyliss Comfort Kitchen Knife Set. Made in Switzerland, this set has blade guards for safe storage, contoured handles and different colours for each use (yellow for peeling, orange/red for paring, purple all-rounder, green (cleaver) and a blue chef’s knife. It costs around £40 with a 5-year guarantee. The basic 3-piece set costs around £15.
- Keep knives away from tiny hands & paws.
- Dry your hands before using a knife
- Never try to catch a falling knife (unless unsafe not to)
- Wear cut-resistant gloves, if you are at risk
- Don’t leave knives hanging over counter top edges
- If someone speaks to you, put knife somewhere safe
- To pass a knife, put on clean surface, to let others pick up
- Carry knives at your side, with cutting edge away from you
- Store knives securely, in downward position
- Clean cuts, dry & apply biodegradable plaster