April first is April Fool’s Day, but there’s nothing foolish about organic foods. Perhaps the best article I have read on organic+ foods is in the February 2006 issue of Consumer Reports Magazine. What I like about this article is that it was published in a non-food magazine and considerably more objective, providing both positive (pesticide-free food) and negative (higher costs) aspects of organic foods, one of the fastest-growing categories in the food business.
Below are tidbits of the article to “whet your appetite.” However, the article is so excellent, I suggest that you go to the library and read the entire copy for yourself. Here are a few ‘bytes’ of the organic article:
DEFINITION OF ORGANIC: Food grown without any synthetic ingredients (ex. Pesticides). This mean produce and processed foods (ex. oatmeal) that are labeled 100% organic. Just “organic” means at least 95% of the ingredients in a food package are organically produced. If a product is labeled “made with organic ingredients,” this means that 70% of the ingredients are organic and the other 30% must come from the USDA’s approved list. (Read labels to be sure you are getting what you want!)
Studies have shown that by eating organic foods, you can greatly reduce your exposure to chemicals found in conventionally grown foods. Since there are potential health risks associated with those chemicals, you might want to consider organic foods, especially those you consume daily. (Information on pesticide levels can be found at www.foodnews.org.)
Consumer Reports recommends the following “dirty dozen” fruits and vegetables that should be purchased only organically, because their conventional counterparts carry a much higher level of pesticide residue than other produce. Buy these 12 items organic as often as possible: APPLES, BELL PEPPERS, CELERY, CHERRIES, (IMPORTED) GRAPES, NECTARINES, PEACHES, PEARS, POTATOES, RED RASPBERRIES, SPINACH, and STRAWBERRIES.
In another article was a second list from the Environmental Working Group. The following foods were listed as LOW in pesticides: ASPARAGUS, AVOCADOS, BANANAS, BLUEBERRIES, BROCCOLI, BRUSSELS SPROUTS, CABBAGE, CAULIFLOWER, EGGPLANT, GRAPEFRUIT, KIWI, MANGOES, OKRA, ONIONS, PAPAYAS, PINEAPPLES, PLUMS, RADISHES, and WATERMELON.
(Both lists are foods that have been tested by the Environmental Working Group.)
Because organics can cost as much as 50% more than conventional produce, my suggestion is that you first buy what you eat most often. For me, that would be APPLES, GRAPES, and GREENS. To be truthful, almost all my produce is organic, unless the skin is somewhat thick, such as bananas, mangoes, and watermelon. But start with the foods you consume regularly, adding more organic items as you can afford them. Why? Because, as the article points out, there are chemical health risks from foods that are conventionally grown with pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and other toxins such as heavy metals. (Eating the above 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables exposes you to about 20 pesticides per day.)
If you cannot grow your own organic foods, try the local farmers’ market. Or have a patio garden. (More on that in a future article.) Many farmers actually advertise their produce is organic. Some farmers can’t advertise their produce as certified organic, but use no pesticides. That’s a start in the right direction. Buy in bulk and share with a neighbor to save money. Or purchase shares in a community-supported organic farm and get a weekly supply of food from Spring ’til Fall at reasonable prices. There are many ways to cut the financial corners without compromising on your decision to buy organic foods.
Finally, enjoy the fresh flavor of foods that you know are untampered. Mother Nature has done a great job of growing her produce for centuries…. without pesticides. So don’t try to fool your mother. Eat organic foods, as nature intended. Start with a salad, like the one in the picture above. This lovely salad is from a cafe in Paris. It was so beautiful, I asked my husband to take a photo of it before I ate it. And it tasted as good as it looked—- a perfect example of The Good Taste of Health, the name of my cooking classes. (I hope it was organic like the recipe below.)
+Words in bold italics can be found in the Glossary to the right of the article.
The trick to a delicious salad came from my friend Rhoda, who taught me to tear, not cut, the lettuce leaves to avoid “browning” and to dress the salad right before serving, so that the dressing is actually IN the salad, not ON the salad.
one small head chilled, organic lettuce (Romaine, red or green leaf, Boston)
one medium organic carrot, washed and grated
one small organic daikon* radish, washed and grated
one small organic red onion, sliced thinly
olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and dill
*Daikon radish is a mild radish used in many Asian dishes and looks like a white carrot.
1. Wash and spin dry the lettuce. Tear (not cut) the leaves into bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl for serving.
2. Next, add the other organic vegetables and toss the veggies lightly.
3. Then, take 2-3 T. of olive oil and sprinkle it onto the salad. Toss gently.
4. Add juice of 1/2- one organic lemon and toss again.
5. Finally, add salt, pepper, and dill flakes to taste, toss and serve immediately. (Adjust the amount of olive oil and lemon juice according to the size of your salad.) ENJOY!!!!