Tuesday, May 3, 2011

To be organic or not to be organic, that is the question

This past weekend I was in Florida visiting my cousin and we talked a lot about food. It is so interesting to share recipes, ideas, tips and tricks (especially when you can get local citrus fruit in Florida year round and here in Boston the ground is finally sprouting new grass).

My cousin and I both love to grocery shop and roamed the isles this weekend pointing out some of our favorite finds, but when we came upon the organic produce we were both stumped. What is the balance between buying local, organic food and not making your food bill turn into paying a second rent each month?

According to the Environmental Working Group, consumers can reduce their pesticide exposure by 80% by avoiding the most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating only the cleanest ones. The EWG has put together the "dirty dozen list" ever year since 1995 of which things you should eat organic to lower your pesticide exposure:
1. Celery
Celery has no protective skin, which makes it almost impossible to wash off the chemicals. Researchers found over 64 pesticides on 1 bunch of stalks.
2. Peaches
These fruits are very seasonal, resulting in over 62 pesticides sprayed on them so farmers can reap a huge crop. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include watermelon, tangerines, oranges, and grapefruit.
3. Strawberries
This is my weak spot, since I love strawberries year round. Most of the time consumers buy 'out of season' strawberries that were covered with pesticides and traveled hundred of miles using hundreds of gallons of fuel.
4. Apples
Researchers have found 42 pesticides as residue on apples. Scrubbing and peeling doesn't eliminate chemical residue completely, so it's best to buy organic when it comes to apples. Peeling a fruit or vegetable also strips away many of their beneficial nutrients, so no loop hole with the apples.
5. Blueberries
This is a new addition to the list, added in 2010 and was classified as one of the dirtiest fruits. Small, little bites pack a whole lot of pesticides!
6. Nectarines
Similar to peaches, nectarines are also seasonal and have over 32 pesticides on their smooth skin. Safer alternatives include, watermelon, papaya, and mango.
7. Bell peppers
Peppers have thin skins that don't offer much of a barrier to pesticides. They're often heavily sprayed with insecticides. Also why are they always so perfectly shaped? Where do all the misfits go?
8. Spinach
New on the list for 2010, spinach can be laced with as many as 48 different pesticides, making it one of the most contaminated green leafy vegetable.
9. Kale
I thought kale was a super food for humans and so superior it had lower pesticide spraying levels, but it was found to have high amounts of pesticide residue when tested this year.
10. Cherries
Shocking fact: in one survey in recent years, cherries grown in the U.S. were found to have three times more pesticide residue then imported cherries. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include raspberries and cranberries.
11. Potatoes
America's popular spud reappears on the 2010 Dirty Dozen list. America's favorite vegetable has as many as 37 different pesticides.
12. Grapes
Imported grapes are heavily coated in pesticides, so only imported grapes are on the dirty dozen list. Vineyards can be sprayed with different pesticides during different growth periods of the grape, and no amount of washing or peeling will eliminate contamination because of the grape's thin skin. Remember, wine is made from grapes- yikes!!

Overall lesson here, buy organic when you can and done break your back or bank account when doing so. But if everyone in the US all made the small switch with these 12 items imagine what that would do to demand and production... maybe buying organic one day would be the only way!


1 comment:

  1. Kate, I love this! Thank you for sharing this post. Since moving to San Francisco I have been much more aware of eating local, organic, and sustainable foods! Of course that's all there is around here, but I think it definitely makes a difference!