There’s something about a fresh sprinkling of water that makes fresh produce look, well, fresher.
But the aesthetics are only part of the reason grocery stores use tiny nozzles to spray their vegetables with water in timed intervals. Aside from the obvious psychological benefits—shoppers seem to prefer the look of shiny veggies—scientists say that regularly dousing produce with water does nothing to improve its quality. According to The New York Times, the opposite is often true. Excess water can actually cause microorganisms to thrive, decreasing shelf-life and spoiling plant tissue faster than if it was kept dry.
It turns out that the real reason grocery stores invest in high-tech sprinkler systems is to maximize profit. Fresh fruits and vegetables absorb moisture, and since produce is often sold by weight, stores use misting systems to plump up their goods.
Produce Business shared the results of one study that showed how much vegetables shrink if they are not properly misted. Broccoli was found to lose nearly 4% of its weight in 16 hours when not misted, while misting added almost 5% in weight over the same time period. Carrots, which are reportedly more prone to weight loss than other vegetables, lost more than 7% of their weight in just 16 hours when not misted.
So, to avoid paying extra for H2O the next time you hit the grocery store, be sure to remove excess water with a vigorous shake before putting veggies in a bag.
To get our top stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter