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Live Simply in the Kitchen: Organic Produce

Growing up there was never an “organic” section in the grocery store. The food was just…food. And produce was just produce. A few years later I noticed the “organic produce” section but never really paid any attention to it. 

  • I bought what I wanted, whether it was in season or not. 
  • I bought what I wanted, whether it was internationally grown or not.
  • I bought what I wanted, whether it was “clean” or not.

But now, I spend half of my time in both sections.

What? I don’t eat everything organic?

Nah. And I’ll get to why in a moment. But first, let’s review what we know about the term organic.

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Why Organic Produce is Good

What is organic produce?

Simply stated, organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. (source)

Eww! So gross: sewage sludge?! It’s so very, sadly!, true. And non-organic produce are grown with pesticides and fertilizers that contain ingredients that will make your head swim!

Many non-organic fruits and veggies have actually been genetically modified. You can read more about GMOs, and how they make us sick, here. So essentially, organic produce is grown traditionally and with many earth-friendly processes…much like the days of old!

Now, we know that typically organic produce costs more. Why? Well, for starters, it costs more to run and operate these typically smaller farms – labor is far more intensive than conventionally grown produce. These smaller farms are not subsidized by government programs and don’t benefit from the mass sales as do the larger, conventional farms.

But you may be surprised to find conventional food is actually more expensive than you realize! Because of the large footprint left by growing conventional food, environmental clean-up dollars are pulled from us through our taxes. So to compare the cost of, say, an organic head of lettuce to a non-organic head of lettuce – don’t forget to add in some of your tax dollars to that non-organic amount!

Organic’s looking better and better, right?

To cut costs even further, I buy produce that is in season and stay as far away from internationally and non-locally grown foods as I can. If it’s not in season, I don’t put it on the menu. And if it comes from another country or even across the country, I rarely will buy it (remember, those costs for shipping also show up in other areas if not directly from the sale of the item). Even if it’s organic.

Why Non-organic Produce Can Be OK

Some fruits and veggies, conventionally grown, are not quite as “dirty” as others. When selecting produce, it’s helpful to know which ones are most likely to be GMO, have pesticide residual, etc. Typically, I base my decisions off of the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list. The full list shows over 50 fruits and vegetables, ranging from the dirtiest to the cleanest. As a rule, I buy the lower numbers organically and the higher numbers non-organically. Some exceptions to the rule do exist. For example, I just don’t buy non-organic corn. Period. It’s dirty, GMO and not really nutrient-dense. So I can easily scratch it off my list. But things like avocados and sweet potatoes and bananas, I don’t mind buying non-organically because they’re pretty “clean.”

The EWG uses a scoring system for each item on the list based on the detectable number of pesticides.

It’s certainly a personal preference where you fall on the list. Some buy only the “Dirty Dozen” organically, some buy only the “Clean Fifteen” non-organically. Others, like me, find a happy medium somewhere in between.

Where to Buy Produce

Oh, that is the question! Co-ops? Delivery groups? Farmer’s Market? Big box stores? Well, you could start with a search on LocalHarvest.com. And join a local online group (hint, hint, Orlando people!) for recommendations for further ideas. I personally use a combination of local farmers, big box stores and delivery groups. 

What produce items do you buy organically?

This post was linked up at Wellness Wednesdays on Intoxicated on Life.

Comments

  1. I try to buy all my produce organically. It doesn’t matter to me whether its in season or not, or if its imported or not. I feel that our need to eat it for our health plays a bigger decision for me. If I want my kids to eat healthy snacks and not junk cookies, I will let them eat strawberries in December if I have to 🙂
    I’ve also bought from local farmers to support local growing on small farms but they are non organic.

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