You spend months growing and tending to the vegetables in your garden, all for the sweet release that comes from the harvest season.
The last thing you want when taking a bite out of your delicious crop is to find the taste completely altered by your pest control method. Part of what makes organic pesticides so ingenious is that they are generally safe to consume.
There aren’t any harmful chemicals that leave dangerous residues behind or cause you to question whether what you’re eating is safe or not.
This uncertainty is the reason so many gardeners use products like neem oil. It is entirely safe to consume, even if there is a little bit left on the plant.
While this clears up any questions regarding how edible it is, it does still leave us wondering whether it’s worth any drawback in taste.
After all, what’s the point of protecting your plants from unwanted critters if you can’t even enjoy them yourself?
Does neem oil affect taste?
By itself, in pure concentration, neem oil possesses a bitter taste. Some describe it as a garlic flavor, which aligns with the pungent aroma it gives off, similar to sulfur. On plants, this taste is still noticeable. However, it is significantly less pronounced than if you ate it straight from the bottle.
Ingesting any remnants on the plant is safe so long as it isn’t mixed with other chemicals, but how strong does that flavor transfer over to your foods?
On edible plants, such as fruits and veggies, neem oil can affect the taste – but only slightly.
Some users describe it more like an aftertaste or a very mild seasoning on the plant. It’s not an overwhelming enhancement unless you are sensitive to flavors.
Washing it well after harvesting does help lessen the effect. If you still notice the taste, or if it’s particularly unpleasant, try cooking the food into something else.
Rather than eating it raw, add your veggies to a nice stew or flavor-packed dish is the ideal way to drown out any adverse effects with a hearty blend of spices. Or even make it a smoothie. Check out Microgreens For Smoothies.
Does neem oil need to be washed off?
No, washing off the neem oil is not necessary. According to the EPA, neem oil is safe for human consumption, so any lingering remnants on the plants won’t make you sick after eating. The only thing you need to watch out for is if something else mixed into the product you used.
Some pesticides combine neem oil with other chemicals to make the formula even more effective.
If you use it as a fungicide, this typically involves adding essential oils and other ingredients that are not necessarily healthy to consume.
In these cases, it may not be safe to ingest the foods without washing, as the product may contain complementary ingredients that may make you sick.
Either way, it’s always a good idea to wash off any foods before eating them. They may have dirt, the residue left by bugs, or other common environmental factors on them.
How to wash neem oil off vegetables?
Even if neem oil is safe to eat, it’s critical to know all the best techniques for stripping it off plants. Maybe you sprayed too much neem oil on one area or used too high a concentration when treating pests.
If this is the case, it may actually be detrimental to the plant’s healthy and hinder its ability to grow or produce fruit.
How to Wash Your Fruits and Veggies Before Harvesting
For the most part, all you need is a little bit of water. Depending on whether you are attempting to wash freshly harvested foods or those still attached to the plant, there is a slight difference in administering the moisture.
If you applied too much neem oil to your plants while still growing them, simply blast them with a cold stream of water from a hose or water bottle. You can also add soap to the water for a deeper clean.
Be careful not to soak the surrounding areas too deeply, however. Heavy moisture in the soil may cause the plants to develop fungus or root rot.
The added moisture also creates the perfect conditions for pests to thrive. For best results, spray them on a warm, sunny day so that the water dries up quickly.
How to Wash Your Fruit and Veggies After Harvest
If the veggies are in hand, how to clean them hinges primarily on the fruits and veggies you are also washing.
First, don’t rinse your produce until you are absolutely ready to eat it. The water acts as a catalyst for the deterioration process for some foods and lingers on others to breed bacteria and mold.
Scrub foods with firmer skins using a soft bristle brush to get deep within the crevices. These foods include carrots, potatoes, and other such tough-hided produce.
Removing the outer layer of leafy greens takes away most of the exposure to dirt and elements, including residual tastes left by the neem oil.
Delicate fruit like berries needs just a cool stream of water and your fingertips to work away any dirt and grime on their surface.
Wash all of them with cool water, and in extreme cases, a little bit of soap, too.
How often should you apply neem oil?
If using neem oil for a pest control problem, applying it every seven days is ideal. After adequately managing the issue, drop back to spraying it on the plant no more than every 14 days.
Attach this rule for preventative measures, too. Some may only apply it once a month or a couple of times a season, especially when they utilize it as an overwintering spray.
It all depends on how you intend to use it and how far gone an infestation might be. The crucial tip is not to treat plants more frequently than the levels mentioned above.
How long does neem oil last?
Unopened neem oil lasts up to one year under ordinary conditions. Sometimes, it lasts even longer than that. In fact, it can last up to three years when kept in ideal environments. This location is any dark, cool area kept at about 40ºF.
Generally, this means keeping it in the refrigerator, but if you have a storage area in your basement or a cellar, these also make fantastic hiding spaces.
After a couple of years, it does start to lose its potency, so use it as soon as possible.
After opening, you still have several months to use it so long as it is kept refrigerated. Diluting it and mixing it with other ingredients, however, is another story.
After making your pesticide or fungus control formula, you only have about 8 hours to spray it onto the plants before it no longer possesses the same effectiveness.
How much neem oil is too much on plants?
It’s not unheard of for younger plants to developmentally struggle when treated with neem oil. They simply cannot handle the ingredient as well as stronger, more established plants, so use sparingly and test it out 24 hours prior to dosing the entire plant.
Diluting neem oil is another critical step to its success. Applying full-strength neem oil to the plant harms even established specimens and affects their ability to grow over time.
You should add at least one quart of water for every teaspoon of neem oil utilized, which is almost 200 times the amount of oil.
Beyond diluting it, overusing neem oil is also possible. When dealing with any kind of infestation, it might be tempting to spray the plant multiple times within a week.
Doing this does not increase the oil’s likelihood of working and may cause irreparable damage to both your plant and the soil’s health.
Some gardeners report the neem oil actually “clogging the pores” of the plant after too many applications. Doing this prevents other helpful nutrients from entering the plant’s surface, robbing it of much-needed resources.
One week is more than enough to do the job, so just be patient and let the neem oil work its magic.
There are many fabulous reasons to use neem oil that far outweigh any disadvantages in taste.
For the most part, the alteration in taste is relatively minimal and often wears away after a good, thorough rinse under cool water. It also helps not to saturate the plants with the formula when using.
That being said, traces of neem oil remain on plants for up to several weeks after spraying them.
So it’s possible to experience small amounts of it on the veggies when tasting, even if you haven’t used it in a while.
The most significant piece of information to look for before biting right into your fruits and veggies is what else is listed on the neem oil bottle. If the bottle says “safe until harvest,” the product likely contains other agents that may be harmful for you to consume.
Always play it safe and wash your fruits and vegetables before eating, even if they come from your own backyard!
If you’re interested in learning how to use neem oil to get rid of spider mites and other common garden pests, try these incredible recipes and gardening tips.