Thursday, April 2, 2009

Those "10 foods to always buy organic" lists

You may have seen these in a few newspaper or magazine articles. I appreciate the sentiment: supposedly, if organic food is out of your budget, you can save money by following these lists. These foods are the essential items to buy organic, because they contain the most pesticides. So just buy these organic, and don't worry about anything else, and you'll save money. Right?

Well, just look at the lists:

Top 10 fruits to always buy organic
Strawberries, Cherries, Peaches, Apricots, Apples, Bananas (sometimes), Grapes, Raspberries, Cantaloupe, Nectarines

Top 10 vegetables to always buy organic
Spinach, Carrots, Celery, Corn, Lettuce, Green Beans, Cucumbers, Potatoes, Squash, Hot Peppers

And then those lists often throw in for good measure, the fact that meat, eggs, poultry and milk should always be purchased organic as well.

Notice something about those lists? Especially if you're the parent of a young child, like I am? Yeah, it's many of the fruits and vegetables most commonly eaten in America. And they're the foods most likely to be eaten by a young (American) child. My picky eater will only eat apples, bananas and grapes, and the top five veggies plus tomatoes and potatoes. Throw in milk, eggs and poultry and there goes almost my entire grocery list. So how could I possibly save money by following this guide?

Here, btw, are the lists of least contaminated fruits and veggies, the ones you don't need to buy organic:

Veggies: onions, sweet corn, asparagus, sweet peas, cabbage, eggplant, broccoli, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes.

Fruits: avocados, pineapples, mangoes, kiwi, papayas, watermelon and grapefruit.

Tomatoes (in sauce) and sweet corn are the only things on those lists my kid will eat. And if you live in more northern climes, none of those fruits will ever be grown locally.

So what to do? Well, I already wash all fruits and veggies with a produce wash (Environné, $3.99 at Trader Joe's for 16 fl. oz), which helps to remove pesticides. I'm going to try to grow lettuce this year, and we plan to rent an apple tree at our local orchard. And I saw an ad recently for Fred Meyer organic milk that said, "Low price every day!" I'll check to see how low. The organic milk I've seen in most grocery stores is often more than twice as much as non-organic. If the Fred Meyer milk is only slightly more expensive, I might go for it.

I'll also keep working on the Tacoma Food Co-Op and Hilltop Farms ideas, to try to bring affordable organic foods to people. Otherwise, these helpful lists are just another "irritating green tip."

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