I love them so much I usually grow tomatoes in my backyard every summer. I grew two plants this year — unfortunately for me, a pesky squirrel ended up enjoying more of the tomatoes they generated than I did. I know.
Anyway, the other day I was picking up a bunch of fruits and vegetables at my local grocery store and, of course, tomatoes were on my list.
Grocery store tomatoes can be such a tease. I find the grocery store varieties to always be visually appealing, perfectly round with a nice red color; but every time I bite into one I am terribly disappointed by the lack of flavor. In fact, they’re practically tasteless — especially when compared to the home-grown ones.
For that reason — and with no home-grown tomatoes waiting for me at home — I briefly considered picking up some organic tomatoes. That is, until I noticed that the price premium being commanded by the organics was almost double the cost of the non-organic varieties.
Outrageous? I thought so; tomatoes are expensive enough without the added organic premium.
According to Mint, organic produce costs so much more because today’s large conventional farms enjoy economies of scale and subsidies that smaller organic farms can’t exploit.
So what’s driving the market? Well, when it comes to fruits and veggies most people buy organics to avoid pesticides that farmers use on their crops to increase yields. In the United States, any produce certified as “organic” must be grown without most synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.
The thing is, when it comes to tainted fruits and vegetables, not all conventionally-farmed produce is created equally. It turns out that many non-organic fruits and vegetables are grown with significantly lower pesticide loads than others, which suggests some organic fruits and vegetables may not be worth those steep price premiums.
So, which non-organic fruits and veggies are typically grown with the lowest pesticide loads? It’s a question that becomes all the more important with Thanksgiving right around corner.
Well, every year a non-profit consumer organization known as the Environmental Working Group (EWG) analyzes pesticide test data gleaned from nearly 100,000 reports conducted by the US Department of Agriculture and the US Food and Drug Administration. From that data they identify the 15 cleanest fruits and vegetables, which they call the “Clean 15.” Here are the cleanest fruits and veggies in 2014:
- Sweet Corn
- Sweet Peas – Frozen
- Sweet Potatoes
You can download their latest report here.
The take-away here is that for those who worry about pesticides on their fruits and veggies, but are trying to stay within the bounds of a tight grocery budget, it makes little sense to pay the extra money for the organically grown varieties listed above.
Instead, buy the conventionally grown varieties and make sure you wash them well. That will free up your money to buy organic produce with the highest pesticide loads that EWG has identified from their “Dirty Dozen” list. Those 12 items in 2014 are, in order:
- Sweet Bell Peppers
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Snap Peas
Although cherry tomatoes are on this list, the bigger ones are not, which is why I’ll continue buying those beautiful-but-bland non-organic ones — at least until I can grow my own again next summer.
I just hope that pesky squirrel packs up and moves to another neighborhood before then.
Photo Credit: rick
(This is an updated version of an article originally posted on July 12, 2010)