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Eating organic can take a bite out of your wallet, so bite back! The Daily Green reports that not all foods need to be purchased organic -- here's a list of 15 hardy fruits and vegetables you can afford to eat on the cheap.
Don't Waste Your Money on These Organic Foods
Why Buy Organic?
Buying organic makes sense for the health of the earth, farm workers, and the health of your family … But if you’re pinching pennies (and who isn’t these days?), choose from this list, based on the Environmental Working Group’s latest compilation of government data, of conventionally grown produce with the least pesticide residue.
The 15 fruits and vegetables on this list were the least likely to have pesticides detected on the parts you eat, after typical washing, whether or not they’re certified organic.
Onions don’t see as many pest threats, which means less pesticide spraying. Look for onions that are firm, have a distinctive smell, and show no visible signs of damage or soft spots. Store in a cool, dry place or in the refrigerator.
Avocados have thick skins that protect the fruit from pesticide buildup. Look for avocados that are still somewhat unripe and firm to the squeeze; they’ll ripen nicely on your kitchen counter in a couple of days. Store at room temperature. Although you’ll be using only the meat of the avocado, it’s always a good idea to rinse them before you slice them open.
Sweet corn may take a lot of fertilizer to grow, but you’re unlikely to end up with any pesticides on the kernels. There is nothing — we mean nothing — like fresh corn on the cob from a local farm stand in late summer. Buy it fresh and local, and boil it that day for the best results. Just be sure to wash the corn before boiling.
You won’t be eating the tough pineapple skin, which protects the fruit from pesticide residue. As with all your produce, you should rinse the pineapple before cutting. Although tempting, this is one fruit that you won’t want to choose if it has a strong, sweet smell. This usually means that the pineapple is overripe and has even begun to ferment. Like all other fruits, avoid any that have soft spots, and in the case of pineapples, damage to the rind. Store in the refrigerator crisper.
Sweet mango flesh is protected by its thick skin from pesticides. Still, you’ll want to rinse under water before cutting open. Depending on the variety of mango, look for those that are bright in color, such as red, yellow, or orange. It should have a distinctive “fruity” smell. If there’s no ripe-fruit aroma, steer clear. Mangoes should be slightly firm, but yield to your touch somewhat — the softer the mango, usually the sweeter it is. If the mango is too soft, there’s a good chance that it will be rotten inside. Store in the refrigerator crisper.
Asparagus face fewer threats from pests such as insects or disease, so fewer pesticides need to be used. Look for firm spears with bright green or purplish compact tips. Plan on a 1/2 pound per person, and for more uniform cooking, select spears of a similar thickness. Store in the refrigerator vegetable crisper and give them a good rinse before using (even if you’re going to boil them).
Sweet peas are among the least likely vegetables to have pesticide residue, according to the Environmental Working Group’s latest survey of government data. If you’re not growing sweet peas in your garden, then look for full, green pea pods at your local farmers’ market, farm stand, or grocery store.
Kiwi peel provides a barrier from pesticides. Give them a rinse before cutting. Here’s where your nose plays an important part when choosing fresh fruit. Sniff out kiwis that smell good. They should be plump and yield to a squeeze, like a ripe pear. Steer clear of those with moist areas on their surface or any skin bruising. If unripe kiwi are all that are available, simply take them home and place them in a paper bag at room temperature with other fruits that need more time, such as bananas or pears. Store in the refrigerator crisper.
Cabbage doesn’t hold onto so many pesticides because a ton of spraying isn’t required to grow it. What it does hold onto is beta carotene: It’s a superfood! Look for cabbage heads whose leaves are tight, and be sure the head is heavy for its type, and firm. For most cabbage varieties, you’ll want to make sure the outer leaves are shiny and crisp. Savoy is the exception to this rule, as it forms a looser head and the leaves grow crinkly naturally. You’ll want to avoid any with leaves that show signs of yellowing. Bok choy should have deep green leaves with their stems a crisp-looking white. Discard the outer leaves of a cabbage before using. You can wash and spin most cabbage leaves just like you do salad greens. Store in the refrigerator crisper.
Maybe it’s the thick skin, but eggplants are among the least likely to be contaminated by pesticides, according to the Environmental Working Group. Look for firm and glossy eggplants to know they’re ripe and undamaged. Because they grow to various sizes, choose one proportionate to the dish you’re preparing.
Pesticide residue stays on papaya skin, so be sure to give them a wash before slicing open. Papaya colors usually range between yellow and green. Look for those that are slightly soft and show no signs of bruising or appear shriveled. If they’re not fully ripened, you can toss them in the brown bag along with your unripened kiwi fruit, peaches, and pears. Once they’re ripened, store in the refrigerator crisper.
With that rind, watermelon has a natural defense against the onslaught of any chemical. Look for a firm, whole melon without any soft spots.
Conventional broccoli doesn’t retain so many pesticides because the crop faces fewer pest threats, which means less spraying. Look for tightly bunched flower buds on the broccoli stalks that are immature. In other words, try not to buy them if their little yellow flowers have opened. Color-wise, the broccoli should be deep green and the stalks should be firm and not rubbery. Before use, wash in a cool water bath and change the water a couple of times in the process. Store in the refrigerator crisper.
Tomatoes were on the 2008 Dirty Dozen list of foods with the most pesticide residue, but the latest update finds them cleaner than most. Why? The Environmental Working Group isn’t sure. If you aren’t growing your own, look for fresh in-season tomatoes at local farmers’ markets and farm stands. Look for glossy, firm skin — and don’t hesitate to try a delicious heirloom variety that might not look like a typical tomato!
Not only are sweet potatoes unlikely to be contaminated with pesticides, they’re also a superfood, packed with Vitamin A and beta carotene. It’s hard to go wrong choosing a hardy sweet potato. Just make sure it isn’t beaten up or rotting, and choose a size that matches the meal you’re preparing.