Column: When buying organic produce is best
Ah, it’s finally starting to feel like spring. The snow has all but disappeared, that warm, fresh smell is in the air, and best of all the buds are popping through the soil and the birds are singing. This time of year always gets me excited for the fresh produce soon to be coming from the many wonderful farms here in the Monadnock region. This seemed like a good time to share a helpful resource that the Environmental Working Group creates each year: “The Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.”
The “dirty dozen” are the produce that have the most pesticides on them when grown conventionally and so, whenever possible, organic should be purchased. This year, they added additional veggies — green beans, kale and collard greens — because they often are contaminated with highly toxic insecticides.
When it comes to produce, your best choices are local, organic and seasonal, in that order. Strawberries in January are a nice treat, but think about how far those berries travelled before they reached your plate. In order to stay “fresh,” they are often laden with chemicals, like pesticides, and others to prevent mold, etc. When we buy locally, it is not only a better choice for our health, but it helps our neighbors, the farmers who produce these wonderful foods. It helps the environment because the foods will stay close and not need to be packaged and shipped, and it helps our local economy. There are so many great farms, many organic, in our area. The farmers markets in Peterborough and surrounding towns make getting local goods easy, and it really feels good knowing where your food comes from.
If your budget doesn’t allow for all organic all the time, then just use the dirty dozen guide to help you make the best choices you can; take a copy with you when you go shopping. Eating well-washed, fresh, conventional produce is still better than not eating it at all. A great all-purpose wash for produce is to combine water and white vinegar, in equal measure, in a bowl for bigger produce or in a spray bottle for smaller. Soak the produce thoroughly for 5 to 10 minutes and then rinse with cool water, and dry well before serving. The vinegar will not remain on the produce, but will help remove toxins. Fresh fruits and vegetables should always be the first choice when reaching for quick-fueling carbohydrates. They are packed with vitamins and will keep you more satisfied than any packaged product. Enjoy the seasonal bounty while it is here. Try something new to see if you will find a new favorite. When you go to the farmers markets, ask the farmers how they grow their food and learn new ways of preparing them. Freeze what you can for use in the winter months, and remember that even organic produce should be washed well before eating.
Although, I must say, eating a fresh berry right off the bush is a highlight of summer for me!
Jeni Hall of Dublin is a board certified nutritional therapist practicing in the Monadnock region. Her mission is to empower you to heal your own body and keep it healthy. See www.jenihall.com, for information.