Thursday, June 9, 2011

Produrre: Produce

Today's blog is in the theme of one of my latest loves: PRODUCE! The name is in Italian in honor of my sis Hannah!

I recently have been loving fresh veggies and fruits and wanted to share a little of what I've learned through this affair! First, it is the best possible thing to crave when prego, as (generally speaking) most things in this category are very low-cal and super packed with goodness. This year is our first year with a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share from a local organic farm. It has been quite an adventure as we go to pick up veggies and get to pick herbs, strawberries, and peas. I am surprised each time at the difference in quality from the store and pleasantly surprised with the significant difference in taste and freshness.

Growing up in KS I learned a lot about gardening and farms through friends of ours and through some gardening adventures of our own. We grew lots of yummy veggies with friends and went to pick veggies or were given veggies from other farms as well. I learned as a child to enjoy eating fresh food and to prefer that over processed stuff (good job Mom!). However, I also learned that, when purchased in the store, fresh stuff is expensive.

In the last two years (and while living in Costa Rica before that) I learned to cherish the goods of seasonal foods. Eating what is in season and in doing so paying less and getting fresher foods. In the US we are used to getting whatever we want whenever we want it! As a result our supermarkets are made for our every convenience. This sometimes includes foods that have traveled farther in their lifespan than I probably ever will in mine! One has to begin to question what is put into these little delicacies to make them last through such a trip and how is it that they are still fresh for an entire week in my fridge after purchase?

I do not presume to have all knowledge on such topics, but here I want to share some info about pesticides and other things that are added to fresh produce to make them last. First, you may already know that most things in the produce section (and beyond) of your grocery store have been coated with a wax or barrier of some sort for preservation.

"Fresh fruits and vegetables coated with some type of wax include citrus fruits, apples, pears, bananas, apricots, melons, avocados, turnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, rutabagas, squash, peppers, eggplant and potatoes. Waxes used for this purpose range from the familiar paraffin to beeswax, rice bran wax and carnauba wax extracted from the young leaves of the Brazilian palm. Even dried fruits may be coated with a layer of wax or oil to retard further moisture loss." (

This process allows little enough oxygen to keep the produce from rotting too quickly, and just enough to keep it from going bad because of the coating. This isn't altogether bad, if we knew what exactly is used in these waxes. The process itself is not one that is harmful to us, however many companies refuse to be transparent about what's in their waxes or coatings keeping us from knowing what we are ingesting. Some are coated in animal-based waxes, which are not necessarily great for eating, so just something to consider. In an effort to avoid these you can either be very diligent about washing (multiple times with an organic produce spray or soap) before eating, or buying from a local selection that does not concern themselves with such things, e.g. farmers market, etc.

The other concern with produce is pesticides and their toxic residue that are absorbed by the plants and food. In the case of pesticides knowledge is power. The FDA holds that they are safe in small quantities, however there are many studies that dispute this, finding that they could possibly be linked to problems ranging from ADD to cancer. I personally would rather reduce my exposure whenever possible. These is a list (or many lists I should say) of veggies and fruits that have higher levels, sometimes even retaining 40-60% of the pesticides and then ones that are relatively low and therefore not as vital to eat pesticide-free.

Here's my version of that list:

“Dirty” (produce that is high in pesticides if not bought organic)

1. Peach

2. Apple

3. Bell pepper

4. Celery

5. Nectarine

6. Strawberry

7. Cherries

8. Kale

9. Lettuce

10. Grapes

11. Carrot

12. Pear

13. Potato

14. Spinach

15. Cucumbers

16. Winter Squash

17. Green Beans

18. Cantaloupe

19. Apricots

“Clean” (produce that does not absorb many of the pesticides if bought non-organic)

1. Onion

2. Avocado

3. Sweet corn

4. Pineapple

5. Mango

6. Asparagus

7. Sweet peas

8. Kiwi

9. Cabbage

10. Eggplant

11. Papaya

12. Watermelon

13. Broccoli

14. Tomato

15. Sweet potato

16. Cauliflower

17. Brussels Sprouts

18. Banana (be sure to clean the skin before eating!)

(Made in part with info from

I would like to add that eating a fruit or veggie free of pesticides does not necessarily require buying organic. If you are in a conventional grocery store you can assume that if it does not say 'Organic' it has been exposed to pesticides in some quantity (usually large). However, if you go to a farmers market or farm stand you can speak to the people who work at the farm and find out if they use pesticides with their plants. The process for a farmer to be certified organic is quite extensive, so many of them do not have the time or funds to be able to be certified. In any case if they can tell you that they do not use any pesticides or that the particular crop you are buying is pesticide free that is better than nothing!

I won't get into any other types of foods today, but keep in mind that any animal protein you eat (chicken, turkey, beef, etc) also has in it whatever was fed to that animal, so pesticides have a role there as well. If you choose to buy locally for these things I suggest asking the farmer what he/she uses to feed the livestock or consider buying from a puritan community who are typically against using anything unnatural (chemicals, pesticides, antibiotics, etc.) in anything they grow, eat, sell or make.

So, happy eating! Tomorrow my goal is to share some super yummy seasonal recipes that I have tested and love. Please sign in and comment (or email me) if you have one that you'd like to share!


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