Even though neem oil has been in use for thousands of years, many gardeners are new to using it as an organic insecticide in their gardens. The bark, leaves, and flower of this highly beneficial tree are used in various spheres of life, and products made from it are aggressively marketed around the world.
Why use neem oil in plants and vegetables?
Neem oil is the single most effective organic pesticide that is used both in domestic and commercial farming. This is because of its organic traits which are typically considered safe for both garden plants and vegetables while being extremely effective against harmful pests and insects.
Neem oil which is extracted from the seed has medicinal properties as well. The oil is mixed with some water for use as an effective organic pesticide. The primary active ingredient azadirachtin has a sharp pungent odor has rich antimicrobial properties. As a result, it creates a non-conducive ambiance for insects and pests and checks their growth.
But when you spend months for growing vegetables and tending to them. And you had been waiting for the sweet produce of your hard work all this while. It goes without saying that the last thing you will accept is that the delicious crunch of these veggies has been altered by your chosen pest-control method. After all, what is the point of using pest control methods if you can’t savor the taste of your hard work yourself? And if you have been using copious amounts of organic pesticides, the real concern here is how to wash neem oil off vegetables?
Why should you wash neem oil off vegetables?
As per the reports of the FDA, neem oil is not harmful to human beings when consumed in small amounts. Moreover, it is also safe for domestic animals like cats and dogs though it may have a detrimental effect on aquatic organisms.
But when the level of neem oil is beyond the recommended guidelines, it may prove to be harmful to humans, especially children. It can cause ischemia, seizures, and kidney issues. Some people also complain that they develop allergic reactions and skin diseases when it comes to contact with the skin.
Even though you may think that the amount of neem oil used for gardening is well within control, it’s best to wash the vegetables thoroughly to make sure that this organic pesticide is not lingering onto the vegetable skin. Further, neem oil has an annoying smell which may be felt in the vegetables you have used it for. Even some of them catch up with the taste of the neem oil and takes about a few weeks before disappearing.
Also, if you are raising the vegetables and plants in your garden, you should apply the neem oil before harvesting. Make sure that you are only applying the oil in areas affected by pests and bugs. This will remove most of the oil from the produce and make it safe for consumption. On the flip side, neem oil doesn’t cause have any negative impact as far as the environment is concerned. It is completely biodegradable and doesn’t accumulate any harmful by-products in the soil and most importantly, doesn’t harm the natural flora and fauna.
How to wash neem oil off vegetables?
When it comes to the edible parts of the plants such as vegetables, fruits, or leaves, neem oil can slightly affect the taste. Some people describe it as a mildly bitter aftertaste that doesn’t change the actual taste of the item altogether. Actually, neem oil can be applied in two ways. First of all, you can use it as a soil drench or spray on the mixture to the foliage. When you opt for the second method, some amount of neem oil residue is still left on the fruits and vegetables making it imperative to wash it off. But how to wash neem oil off vegetables? Let’s find out.
As already mentioned, considering the potential side effect of neem oil consumption, preventing oil ingestion should be your top priority. First of all, you should thoroughly wash all vegetables treated with neem oil in lukewarm water.
The warm water here plays a significant role since oil does not mix well with cold water and the layer of oil remains unaffected. You may also use a mild soap solution for dissolving the oil from the edible leaves and vegetables. Any substance capable of lowering surface tension like soap helps in removing grease and oil. Moreover, rinsing the same with lukewarm water two to three times can remove the layer of oil together with this soap solution.
Things needed for washing neem oil:
Depending on the amount of harvest you want to wash, you may require a bowl of lukewarm water or a large can for effective washing of the vegetables. For instance, if your domestic harvest comprising small amounts of veggies, then you may not need a lot of substances. But if it is a commercially produced large scale yield, then you would definitely have to arrange for more.
You will require running tap water and a bowl of clean lukewarm soap solution for washing off small produce. But a watering hose or can may be required if you want to wash the vegetables before they are harvested. For large-scale plantations, a spray bottle can be used for spraying the warm water directly onto the veggies. Thus, you should be ready with the following things:
- Bowl: Required only in the case of washing a small harvest
- Mild cleanser: For removing the layer of oil easily by lowering the surface tension
- Water: Most important element for washing
- Nozzle: Needed for adding pressure to the water force
- Hose: Necessary for transportation of water in large scale washing
Steps for washing off neem oil:
In the first place, you will have to make a solution with a mild cleanser and water in a drum or bowl depending on the size of the harvest. If you don’t want to use soap in edible items, you may skip it. Even though using soap leads to faster and more effective results, warm water can also get the job done.
The next step is to spray the soap solution directly on the vegetables generously and allow them to rest for some time. Lastly, you must rinse the soap with water by thoroughly washing the veggies with water. Allow running tap water time to flow over the vegetables rather than dunking them because the high pressure helps in removing the neem oil effectively.
After following these steps closely, your vegetables are free from neem oil and are safe for consumption. You can eat them raw or use them in a salad without any worries.
Other effective alternatives
Some people are skeptical about the use of soap water when it comes to washing edible things like fruits and vegetables. And if you are one of them, there are several other excellent alternatives to this.
1. Soaking in salt water
It is a proven fact that if you can soak your vegetables in a 10 percent saltwater solution for about half an hour, it will get you rid of most variants of pesticides including neem oil.
2. Soaking in vinegar
Vinegar is yet another remarkable protection against pesticides. A properly prepared mixture of vinegar and water will not only help in the removal of neem oil from the vegetable skin but also some harmful bacteria which may have found their way to the veggies.
3. Soaking in baking soda solution
It is also highly effective in soaking your vegetables in a solution made with 1 part baking soda and 100 parts of normal water. But you should be careful while soaking vegetables with thinner skin in these solutions as the porous outer layer may allow these solutions to seep through the vegetable skin.
4. Brushing and scrubbing
This step is very useful for those vegetables with thick skin. To wash off the neem oil from the outer layer, give it a nice scrub with a brush in any of these solutions. This will reduce the chances of contamination up to 96 percent. Allow it to dry out and the vegetables are ready for consumption.
It’s worthy of mention here that a bit of neem oil on the outer skin of the vegetables wouldn’t have any detrimental effect on your health. Moreover, some people have the habit of peeling off the outer skin before cooking. This is going to remove all the residue oil and you can make your favorite meal with those vegetables without being bothered about the impact of the neem oil.
The bottom line:
Neem oil doesn’t have any potential poisonous effect on the plants and vegetables they are used for. Just like other natural things, excess neem oil can also have significant harm to one’s health. This is especially true in case of small children and pregnant women. As an organic pesticide, it is really an asset for those who indulge in farming. Even in the light of all these benefits, it’s better that you take the required precaution in washing off the neem oil from vegetables before cooking or consuming them.