Beware of Nanobugs on Summer Melons

29 Jul Beware of Nanobugs on Summer Melons

It was an easy decision to stop at the pick-up truck parked on the side of the road late Monday morning. I had “shopped” at this portable farmer’s market before the 4th of July and bought corn on the cob, tomatoes and a watermelon. Everything was delicious. Hannah (my elder daughter and product manager for Nanoubgs, inc) and I selected 6 gorgeous tomatoes, a cucumber and a cantaloupe the size of a soccer ball for our lunch. At home I began washing the produce with dish soap and warm water which made Hannah chuckle – thinking I had gone off the deep end with infection prevention and avoidance of nanobugs. In defense of this important step in preparation I explained to her: smooth fresh tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and even watermelons can be easily cleaned to reduce potential contamination with E. coli O157:H7. However, cantaloupe and honeydew melons have a rough surface and more hiding places for the Nanobugs, so a soft vegetable brush is appropriate for washing even if there is no visible dirt on them. The black dirt spot on our beautiful melon came off easily with a little scrubbing. I rinsed it well with tap water and patted it dry with paper towels. Now I was ready to slice and dice and fix it up nice!

I’m sure you are thinking this is a bit far-fetched – “we never went to all this trouble and and we have never gotten sick”. But times have changed and if you understand the field to table process you will reconsider.

Contamination of fruits and vegetables in the field usually comes from the “run-off” from cattle feedlots and pastures. E. coli O157:H7 in the manure is dispersed into the growing fields and onto the produce. My farmer/gardener hand picks all of his melons himself and takes them directly to market. But when large farms pick truckloads of melons – they are often plunged into contaminated water to cool them down and slow the ripening process. The infection risk with melons begins when you slice through the contaminated rind – transporting the nanobugs into the flesh of the fruit. If melons are cut and served on platters with the rind still on, the contaminated rind lays on top of the flesh of other pieces and the multiplication of the nanobugs begins. And room temperature on a hot summer day can increase the multiplication rate. Many local health departments encourage (or demand) that melons be rolled in a weak bleach solution before slicing – especially if the rind remains on the fruit with serving.

I certainly don’t want to spoil your enjoyment of a nice ripe cantaloupe this summer with all this talk of risks and realities. But I do hope you will “remember the nanobugs” when you prepare and eat those melons. I prefer to use a melon baller and create little melon balls for snacks. My grandchildren love to eat them with toothpicks.

I think I may have discovered a new, simple and tasty recipe for cantaloupe – sprinkle organic cinnamon over cooled melon balls! Have you ever heard of such a thing? It passed the test with my family – delighting 3 out of 4 of us on Monday afternoon. The one undelighted person was Maisy (age 6) who wouldn’t try it, claiming she doesn’t like “pepper”. Her portion was quickly ingested by her smiling older brother.

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