I don’t mean to sound subversive, but I think it would be great if we all started our own New Year’s revolution and resolved to eat more organic produce. If you’ve been thinking about including more organic foods in your diet there’s help from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and their list of the “Dirty Dozen.” They’re not talking about the classic 1960’s movie but a list the EWG has published ranking the twelve conventional produce items that have the highest levels of pesticide residues.
It includes many commonly used fruits and vegetables. Ranked from highest pesticide levels to lower, the list includes peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, kale, lettuce, imported grapes, carrots and pears. (Some of the least contaminated foods are onions, avocados, pineapples and mangoes.) So if you want to do the most good for yourself and the environment, start at the top and work down. Like all serious resolutions, there may be lapses and difficulties along the way, but even a tiny beginning can have important consequences.
Why should we care about the use of pesticides? Certainly, no one willingly wants to introduce harmful substances into his or her body. Additionally, we should also be concerned about the health of the farm workers and others who handle our food, and about the health of the air and soil where pesticides are used. Indiscriminate pesticide use harms many beneficial insects and soil microbes, which can lead to a decrease in soil fertility and overall plant health.
I think it’s only fair to point out that organic growers use pesticides, too. But organic rules restrict them to naturally occurring, relatively benign products that do minimal harm to the environment.
After several weeks of haphazard eating over the holidays, I am trying to get back to a more healthy diet and attitude — sort of a palate and soul cleanser. This week I wanted to bring a platter of fresh things to a family birthday gathering. My shopping expedition turned up lots of colorful, delicious and seasonal fruits and vegetables. When shopping, it was easy to avoid conventional sources for any of the Dirty Dozen on my menu.
I needed to use my biggest Italian platter to hold all the salads I made: cabbage and apple slaw, golden beets with oranges and olives, shaved fennel and Parmesan, carrots and daikon with lemon and garlic, all on a nest of fresh garden greens. And all good soldiers in my own New Year’s revolution.
What about you?
Alan Tangren is DooF’s Director of Food Operations