Buying organic is a huge priority for my family and we budget accordingly to make it happen. Yes, organic food costs more money (sometimes significantly more money), but the alternative is completely unacceptable. The vast majority of crops today have been sprayed with a variety of deadly poisons - chlorinated hydrocarbons, pesticides, toxic fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides and other phosphorous and toxic compound seep into your fruits and vegetables. Pesticides have been linked to developmental problems in children, can disrupt the endocrine system, and are known carcinogens. Cancer is now the #1 cause of death in children (used to be accidents) and I believe that these chemicals contribute to that devastating rank. The chemicals are absorbed into the produce and can not be washed - peeling off the skin won't do the trick either. Its absolutely INSANE to me that the government subsidizes the processed foods, diary and meat industries yet makes organic methods a challenge to farmers. I would sell my car and take the bus before I buy conventional produce.
That being said, we don't buy ALL of our fruits and vegetables organic. Thick shelled produce gives protection from chemicals, so we buy conventional melons and avocados. Same with bananas, kiwi, and pineapple. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases a "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean Fifteen" list every year based on an analysis of 32,000 samples tested by the USDA and the FDA. This handy resource lets you know what you absolutely must buy organic and what you can buy conventionally. It was just released last week and once again apples top the list. What in the world did a poor apple do to deserve to be smothered with over 13 different chemicals?! American apples were recently BANNED in Europe (full article here) because of the extensive use of the questionable chemical DPA, which prevents apple skins from developing brown spots while in cold storage. Strawberries are 2nd on the list and have very thin skins so they absorb everything sprayed on them. I LOVE strawberries and enjoy picking them every year. My favorite farm got very defensive when asked about being sprayed, and I'm so glad I found an organic option - Charlotte friends be sure to check out Wise Acres Organic Farm in Indian Trail, AWESOME place! This visual of an organic vs. conventionally grown strawberry blew me away…
We are on a budget and I buy our organic produce at Trader Joe's (their prices can't be beat), Costco (bulk spinach, carrots) and at the Farmer's Market. I love supporting local farmers and always frankly ask about their growing practices. While many are not certified organic (requires a lot of red tape), they may use organic methods and not spray. I look them straight in the eye and if they hesitate or get defensive at all I move right along. In Charlotte the Mecklenburg County Market is awesome and open year round Tuesday thru Saturday (on Saturday they have live bluegrass music!). They will tell me what has been sprayed and what has not and I trust them 100%. Check them out!
Here is the list in order!
THE DIRTY DOZEN (I think there were a couple ties, it's actually a dozen +2)
- Sweet Bell Pepper
- Nectarines (imported)
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Snap Peas (imported)
- Hot Peppers
- Blueberries (domestic)
THE CLEAN FIFTEEN
- Sweet Corn (I disagree with this one and would buy organic to avoid GMOs)
- Sweet peas (frozen)
- Papaya (also disagree, would only buy organic to avoid GMOs)
- Sweet Potato