Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Garden Produce In Flooded Areas

Flooded area nearby in Oxford!

With all the flooding around the country in recent years, many people lost the gardens they worked so hard on. What happened after the flood waters went down? What if their gardens survived the flood water? But was the produce still safe to eat? Why or Why not?

Vegetables and fruits should not be eaten if flooded!

Many conditions after a flood of the area can affect the safety of the food growing in your garden. Flood waters can contain contaminants such as agricultural or other chemicals, as well as disease-causing organisms that come from the run off of agriculture land or septic systems. Many homes that were flooded could contain chemicals in their garages, basements, fuel tanks, etc. or businesses that use chemicals. All that gets into the flood waters.

Lettuce should be destroyed if flooded if contaminates are in the water!

After a flood, green leafy vegetables that are eaten fresh such as lettuce and cabbage are a high risk of contamination for 90 days. So they should be destroyed and not eaten. Greens that are cooked, such as kale, beet greens, etc., should be cut back and allow it to regrow before being eaten. They should be cooked thoroughly before eating. Now I know we don't like losing our produce in our gardens, but I wouldn't be risking my family's life by harvesting this food.

Raging waters can cause such destruction!

Well known food borne illnesses arise from garden produce that has been contaminated with floodwaters containing pathogenic bacteria, parasites, and viruses. Typical  pathogens involved in these particular situations include E. coli 0157:H7, Cryptosporidium parvum, Cyclospora, Giardia, Campylobacter, and Hepatitis A. Every single one of these diseases make people gravely sick and in some instances have long-term complications or may cause death.

Strawberry blossoms and fruit should be taken off!

Plants with blossoms or fruit, such as strawberries or tomatoes should be discarded. The stilt and contaminates become imbedded in leaves, petioles, stems, or other natural openings of fleshy structures. It is not possible to clean them, especially as most of them have a lot of ridges and crevices that would possibly contain contaminated silt and/or bacteria.

Root crops such as potatoes should be peeled and cooked!

Root crops would have to be peeled, including crops that were still underground. Such as potatoes, beets, carrots, etc. and cooked thoroughly before eating. Remember it is your family's health that is at risk! It depends on the level of contamination from the flood water on your garden. The pathogens eventually die out, but can remain present in your ground for several months. If you were flooded from a feedlot or septic overflow you shouldn't even consider using any produce for at least 90 days. Better to safe than sorry. You can have it tested if you are still uneasy about it. I would want to be sure myself.

Copyright © 2011 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2011  Kathleen G. Lupole

*All facts here were researched at the Dept. Of Horticulture, Cornell University

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