10/22/09 Before I start, I want to tell you that I went to Whole Foods last Friday. I went to the produce section and lo and behold! I saw MOST of all the apples listed as ORGANIC! Of course I went to look for my favorite apples, Macintosh, and they were still CONVENTIONAL. Oh well. You can’t win them all!
I’m not going to sit here and act like most Americans haven’t heard the term “organic” – what it is (basically) and where it comes from (ideally). I can create a blog just explaining what this truly is but I won’t do that…what I will do is explain the difference between organic and conventional foods.
Besides the obvious – pesticides and the lack thereof – the difference between what is organic and conventional is manifold. The first difference is skin deep: conventional fruits are usually brighter and “prettier” than their organic counterparts. They’re less prone to oxidation (bruising on fruits – inside and out – is based on the presence of oxygen, especially with apples…that’s why if you cut an apple and leave it out for a minute, it will start to turn brown. It’s not that it’s getting rotten, it’s just the effect of the presence of oxygen on the open apple) and because of this will look “prettier” for a longer period of time.
If you look at most organic fruits, they won’t be as pleasing to the eye because of the effects of their travel time from the farm to the supermarket (or wherever you get your organic foods). Since they don’t have pesticides the enable them to last longer, you’ll have to eat them within a shorter period of time too.
The second problem is that to the average person, who is not familiar to the “organic” lifestyle, the taste of the fruit won’t be as pleasant either. At least, not at first. That’s ok…I’ll spend plenty of time (later on in these posts) to talk about that. Matter of fact…I spoke about it in my Fight dis-ease! blog (just a little bit).
The third (and most distressing) issue is finances. Organic foods are generally greater in price than conventional foods. For a lot of us who are low on funds, even the thought of purchasing organic food is a chore. So what options do we have? Plenty! Let’s explore some of them now:
- Don’t buy conventional produce at Whole Foods! I’m not a fan of Trader Joe’s.
If you are a fan and you know that they do sell organic produce (especially the ones highest in pesticides), then shoot for the stars! Trader Joe’s is usually less expensive than Whole Foods so that’s a good look.
If you’re going to buy conventional food, you might as well buy it in your local supermarket. It’s much cheaper and there are ways to get around the pesticides without exactly having to buy organic.
- Buy an organic vegetable/fruit cleaner. Now this is something you can buy at Whole Foods! They sell fruit/veggie cleaners, so do most health food stores. Shop around, see what’s the best price and go for it! Just make sure the cleaner is made from organic/all natural products.
Also, don’t be afraid to buy a utensil that cleans fruits/veggies. You can get that anywhere and use it with the cleaner to take off most of the residue left by pesticides and the air (such as dirt and other particles).
If you really want to be “grass roots,” create your own veggie/fruit cleaner. I bought a small dark blue (at Whole Foods and other health food stores) spray bottle and filled it with 2 parts water and 1 small part of apple cider vinegar (Braggs is my favorite brand). I can’t afford a veggie/fruit cleaner right now so I do it with what I have. If you don’t like the taste of vinegar, you will have to save some money but the more you dilute the vinegar, the less you will taste it (and it won’t go deep beneath the skin either…but I must admit, I never tried to clean peaches with it. )
Another good thing about the veggie/fruit cleaner is that you can use it with conventional fruits as well. It may not get everything off but a little less is much better than the alternative in the long run.
- Buy local, purchase your produce from a farmers market! Believe me, when you have the money, this is definitely the best way to go. However, I made this choice last for New Yorkers. I’m sure the local produce in other places are cheap but with the high cost of living in NYC, it’s very expensive to buy items from a farmer’s market.
There is some good news to this…if you are on food stamps, you can use your EBT card at various Greenmarkets. As an added bonus, for every $5 you spend using your card, you will recieve a $2 Healthy Buck to spend on fruits and vegetables! I only found out about this recently so I’m sorry to say that this will end on November 15, since that is the last day that the 2009 Farmers Market season is open. For more information, click here.
I think I gave you a lot to chew on so I’ll end it here. Just remember, no matter what form of produce you buy or where you buy it from, make sure you clean and store it properly so that it can last long and taste fresh. In Junk Fruit III, I’ll talk about Food Co-ops (another way to get local and organic foods at a low cost) as well as provide information on the best ways to clean and store some of you favorite fruits.. There A lot of foodies might be onto it already, but trust me, I know a lot of people that have no idea.