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Uncooked vegetables

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Uncooked vegetables

I have had some unpleasant Montezuma's Revenge type experiences with uncooked vegetables in the past, and the way I've dealt with this situation is simply to avoid eating fresh vegetables.

However, my next trip to Mexico will consist of four weeks in Oaxaca City, one week in Huatulco, and one week in Mexico City, which for me is rather too long to go without salads, plus I would like to feel free to try tlaludas, etc.

With drinks, I've learned that it's generally safe to drink cocktails, etc., in upscale restaurants, and elsewhere to ask if the ice is made from agua purificada.

Is the situation similar with raw vegetables? Are they usually okay for my gringo stomach in upscale restaurants? And elsewhere, how do I ask if the veggies have been washed in water that won't cause negative repercussions?

Thanks so much.

9 replies to this topic
Oaxaca, Mexico
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1. Re: Uncooked vegetables

In the city of Oaxaca, and in some nearby towns, restaurants disinfect their uncooked vegetables, regardless of high end or middle of the road. It's not like it was in the 60s, 70s and even the 80s. I assume you mean salad vegetables. In restaurants we eat salads, drink whatever with ice in it, etc. Locals, that is even Oaxacans, are also susceptible to GI ailments, though perhaps less so since our systems have become accustomed to little parasites I suppose. The point is that restaurants also cater to locals, and if they get sick they will not return. The point is you should not be afraid to eat salads or drink beverages with ice. In village marketplaces or some city street stands I would be a little more cautious. If at the latter you see a lineup or several people who appear to be working or middle class, it's probably safe. As visitors to Oaxaca, when eating on the street we always asked the vendor to hold the cilantro and epazote for quesadillas, probably a good idea for you. In answer to your last query, perhaps ask something like "los vegetales de las ensaladas son disinfectados?" If you were here in Oaxaca for only a couple of days, my advice might be different, but certainly if you are here longer, I would recommend against denying yourself all that Oaxaca has to offer. There are two or three brands of disinfectant that restaurants use, or alternatively but much less so a mild bleach solution.

Alvin Starkman - Mezcal Educational Excursions of Oaxaca

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2. Re: Uncooked vegetables

Thanks, Alvin, that is most reassuring. Bon Appetit to me!

Goodyear, Arizona
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3. Re: Uncooked vegetables

This is a rather silly question, if you don't mind me saying so. Pesticides aside, which generally aren't a problem in Mexico, would you eat unwashed fruit and vegetables in the U.S.? There was just a major outbreak of food poisoning due to a batch of lettuce originating in Yuma, AZ. If you wouldn't eat these things unwashed in the States --- and I wonder about anyone who does --- why would you think it's safer to eat them anywhere else in the world, no matter what anyone tells you?

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4. Re: Uncooked vegetables

To: Rude Arizonan

From: me

Please spare us your rudeness in the future, Moronica.

Oaxaca, Mexico
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5. Re: Uncooked vegetables

At the risk of overly dignifying #3 above, and I would like to assume most readers are aware that washing produce in the US is very different from disinfecting, at least in this part of Mexico simply washing is not good enough because:

1) using water from the tap does very little if any good since it should not be drank because of the poor water quality, contaminants in it (we use what comes out of our filters upon cleaning every few months, as fertilizer for our gardens), etc., although there are exceptions. If it's not good enough to drink, it should not be used to wash produce;

2) disinfectant, much better than just water (tap or otherwise) typically will kill the e-coli or any other bad substances on the produce (we are talking about produce which is not typically peeled, and I have been taught that if I am peeling, to do so in a manner whereby my hands do not touch what has already been peeled);

3) even if the produce has been more carefully grown and insecticide removed or whatever, fruit and vegetable stand and grocery store staff are often very poorly paid, uneducated, and as a consequence can often be just sloppy when it comes to handling produce they then put out for purchase (sneezing, hand washing, etc)

I eat unwashed fruits and vegetables in the US and Canada periodically, my custom not being to regularly wash fruits and vegetables, to the chagrin of my wife however. Here I would never do so for the foregoing reasons. I don't believe that a quick rinsing does the good that many seem to think it does, with insecticide remaining.

In my respectful opinion, pesticides are in fact almost as much a problem here as they are in the US. Much of our produce indeed comes from the US, and even locally produced produce is often grown with pesticides. I am friends with several rural Oaxacans who own greenhouses in which they grow tomatoes, and most if not all spray with commercial insecticides.

Alvin Starkman - Mezcal Educational Excursions of Oaxaca

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6. Re: Uncooked vegetables

Thank you Mezcal_Tours for that detailed, informative reply. Very helpful reminder for travelers to this area and other similar locations.

San Diego...
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7. Re: Uncooked vegetables

My suggestion is to bring a fork with you and buy bagged salad from Soriana Supermarket.

It comes already washed. You can bring your own individual packets of salad dressing if you want.

Edited: 16 June 2018, 12:52
Vancouver, Canada
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8. Re: Uncooked vegetables

Our last trip to Oaxaca we spent 3 weeks in the city and surrounding villages. We ate pretty much everything we wanted. For street food, I watch for a while to see if things are made fresh or have been sitting around and how busy the place is. Also, I noticed that a lot of street food vendors have one person handling the cash and one cooking. We even ate at tiny little restaurants in the country side. I don't drink the drinks in the large plastic jugs even though I really want to. Most of the restaurants, when we were there, were busy - another good sign. The drinks have ice with the hole through it that vendors and restaurants purchase and it's made with purified water. We didn't get sick at all in those three weeks. THEN....we went for a special treat to the coast for three days and stayed in a fancy place and ate in a fancy restaurant for a special treat. We got so sick. When we got home we were tested positive for shigella (a type of dysentery) . So, I don't think it matters if it's upscale or downscale....the centre for disease control person I talked to said that a speck the size of the end of a pin can carry nasty stuff as well as flies.

There is some risk traveling but you have to be sensible and really look around when eating street food and choose busy restaurants.

Oaxaca is really so much fun for trying new things and eating. I hope you enjoy and stay healthy!

Edited: 27 June 2018, 12:53
Anaheim, California
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9. Re: Uncooked vegetables

Tlayudas are not a problem. I recommend Comedor Bety in Mercado 20 de Noviembre in Oaxaca City—there's a reason it's always busy. I don't often eat salads in most of Mexico because there's no way to tell if the greens were disinfected and it's a bit maleducado to ask. I've been lucky sometimes and I've gotten "chorro" a couple of times.

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