Yum-m-m-m! Most pet birds love chewing up and scarfing down fresh vegetables. If you’re lucky, you may be able to have a garden in your backyard. But what if you don’t? What if you live in an apartment or condo and don’t even have a balcony? Or, what if you have a yard, but simply don’t have the time or desire to plant a garden?
“You can still find good quality vegetables in your local grocery store, farmer’s market, or roadside stand, but you have to know what you’re looking for,” said Donna Falconnier, University of Illinois Nutrition and Wellness Educator. She suggests you choose fresh-looking produce that is not bruised, shriveled, moldy, or slimy, and does not have any bad odors. Also, she added, “buy an amount that you can use within a short time, so you don’t have to throw away spoiled produce.”
Some specifics to look for: Choose broccoli with dark green heads, closed buds, and no signs of yellow flowers. Spinach should have bright green leaves. Look for green beans that are crisp and a bright color without brown or soft spots. Carrots should be a deep orange color and have bright green tops. Sweet potatoes should have firm, smooth skin, with no bruising or brown spots.
When selecting sweet corn that is still in the husk, look for ears with husks that are fresh-looking, tight, and green (not yellowed or dry); silk that is moist, soft, and light golden; and kernels that are plump and filled-out. The kernels at the tip should be smaller than those at the base; if there are large kernels at the tip that means the corn is overmature.
You can buy either conventionally-grown produce or organically-grown vegetables (which have not normally been sprayed with pesticides). Either way you go, you still need to wash the dirt off the produce and any bacteria that may be on the outsides of the vegetables from people handling them or insects crawling on them. What’s the best way to wash the produce you buy?
Falconnier recommends you put your vegetables in a colander and continuously run cool tap water over them. “Don’t put water in a sink and just soak the vegetables,” she advised. “You get more of the dirt and other foreign matter off the vegetables when the water is a continuous flow.” Avoid using detergent or bleach when washing produce, since vegetables are porous and can absorb these chemicals.
But what about the waxy coating on store-bought produce? “It’s an edible type of wax, so you don’t need to worry about it,” Falconnier replied. “You can certainly use a small scrub brush and scrub off the veggies if you want to, but it’s kind of hard to take that wax off. The wax is not going to hurt animals or people eating the veggies with it on it.” Your birds will probably not even taste the wax, she added. They will, of course, be able to taste all the yummy fresh produce you bring home… which they are sure to enjoy!