One of the things I miss most about the winter months are the local farmers’ markets. For one thing, fruits and vegetables from supermarkets just don’t taste the same as fresh from the garden. But, more importantly, you hear all the hype about pesticide residue and how it adversely affects our health. The bottom line is profit for the growers who mass produce, so consequently, more pesticides and herbicides are used to keep the crops disease-free for a longer shelf life.
The solution isn’t to stop eating fruits and vegetables for six months out of the year, but to find the best way to make store-bought produce safe for consumption. I did a little research on the subject and here is what I found:
– The best way to wash most types of fruits and vegetables is just like you do your hands – with good old soap and water. You can buy fruit and vegetable washes that do remove the pesticides, but the residue from the wash itself may be just as harmful.
– Two of the worst culprits to get “clean” are apples and potatoes. The chemicals used on these penetrate the skins and go into the flesh. Some residue has even been found in the flesh after cooking so the best method is to peel these. The only problem is that most of the nutrients are found in the skin and, if you are like me, the skin is the best part to eat. In this case, invest in a good scrub brush and thoroughly scrub the peels before eating.
– On this same note, many apples, pears, cucumbers, eggplants and the like are waxed to make them shiny and look more appealing. You know they didn’t come off the tree like that and wax does not dissolve in water. The only solution here is to peel.
– Leafy greens, even if the label says pre-washed, should be washed in water. Adding vinegar will help remove any residue, but it may also affect the taste.
– Grapes can be put in water with a little detergent and swished. Just make sure to rinse well to remove any remaining detergent.
– Always remember it is important to wash thoroughly before cutting or slicing as a knife will drive any bacteria that is on the outside into the flesh when the fruit or vegetable is punctured. This is especially true for melons. Many people falsely believe that since the rind is not consumed, it does not have to be washed.
– The best rule of all is to buy organic because no pesticides or chemicals are used to grow organic. The downside is that organic is more expensive. Everyone has to weigh this decision on their own.
For these reasons I love our garden. We try to raise as much as we can and put the excess in the freezer or preserve it by canning. It has been said that $30 in investment of seeds and fertilizer yields $100 of fresh food. You also get the benefit of digging in the dirt, exercising and the satisfaction of growing something from a seed.
Sadly, even if you do a garden and you live in the northern climates, you still need to purchase fresh greens and other produce during the winter. The health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables still outweigh the dangers of pesticide residue, but it doesn’t hurt to take these extra measures.