Plentiful Produce

Signs of spring are everywhere! April showers. May flowers. Sparkling sunshine. Blossoming flowers and flourishing gardens. Colorful fresh produce. Farmer’s Markets.

I love the Marietta Farmer’s Market. There are over 50 vendors with a variety of edibles ranging from cucumbers to watermelons, home-made breads to sweet desserts, and healthy teas to infused oils. So many wonderful delights! My favorite is the produce. All those wonderful fruits and vegetables are perfect for creating fresh summer recipes.  Of course, most of the farmers at our market offer organic, non-GMO produce, or do not use pesticides. That’s the other reason I love the Farmer’s Market. I get healthy organic produce without pesticides while supporting local farmers. It’s a great win for everyone. Except, of course, the pesticide companies.

Should we be concerned about those chemicals spliced into and sprayed on our plants? We already know that pesticides are not good for us. The question is how much is too much? Research studies have linked pesticide exposure to certain cancers such as colorectal and breast cancer. It is also associated with a higher risk of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, studies have indicated a negative effect on children in particular because their bodies are still developing. Preliminary research has identified a possible link between environmental chemical exposure and autism. Obviously, more research is necessary before a causative answer can be confirmed, but the prognosis does not look good.

Are pesticides necessary? Agribusiness corporations are certainly proponents. Commercially grown produce uses pesticides to cultivate a greater yield, a more perfect product that is pleasing to the eye, and a longer shelf life. Maximum residue levels (MRL) are set by national and international regulatory bodies, including the USDA.  After the plant is harvested, if pesticide levels exceed the MRL, the product is not allowed to be sold.

There is another organization that takes this process one step further. Environmental Working Group is a non-profit organization that protects public health by monitoring legislative proposals and industry standards and educating people so they can make healthy choices.  One of their projects involves a produce list called the Dirty Dozen – Clean Fifteen. The Dirty Dozen is a list of produce with the highest levels of pesticide (all within the legal limit, of course), and the Clean Fifteen is a list of plants with the lowest levels of pesticide. If 100% organic is not a possibility, which it isn’t for most of us, then at the very least, try to buy organic if it is on the Dirty Dozen list. Another thing to look for is the Non-GMO label, which means it has no pesticides inside the plant genes.

The following are some tips to decrease the amount of pesticide residue before eating:

  • Rinse in cold water while scrubbing with a soft brush.
  • Peel fruits and veggies on the Dirty Dozen list when applicable.
  • Use a mixture of 1% baking soda and water to soak apples for 12 – 15 minutes.
  • Rinse produce with ozonated water. This is water mixed with a specific type of oxygen.

Now is the time to buy fresh locally grown produce from your local farmer’s market.  Be sure and ask the farmer about pesticide use before you buy. If you are buying in store, be sure to keep the Dirty Dozen – Clean Fifteen list on your phone for reference.

Best advice? Grow your own garden!

Dirty Dozen

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale/Collard/Mustard greens
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Cherries
  8. Peaches
  9. Pears
  10. Bell and hot peppers
  11. Celery
  12. Tomatoes

 Clean Fifteen

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Onions
  5. Papayas
  6. Frozen sweet peas
  7. Eggplant
  8. Asparagus
  9. Broccoli
  10. Cabbage
  11. Kiwifruit
  12. Cauliflower
  13. Mushrooms
  14. Honeydew
  15. Cantaloupe

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