Definition of Organic produce is a grey area. Many chemicals obtained naturally and thus approved as pesticides in farming are not well studied. Not all produce are full of pesticides and some of them can be washed clean off chemicals. Following are some rules of thumb to follow and produces which you need to buy organic and which you don’t.
-Closer to ground or just below the ground produces are laden with chemicals. Both fertilizers and pesticides. Potatoes, Spinach and other greens and herbs. Better to buy organic in this case or grow it ourselves. These are easily grown in pots in balconies.
-Fragile produces are sprayed with multiple chemicals to kill insects as well as preserve it for transporting to different regions. Look for hardy produce. Onions garlic don’t require much of pesticides.
-Thin skinned fruits and vegetables absorb most of the surface pesticides, like berries. Avoid strawberry unless you are sure it’s organic. It is known to contain huge quantities of chemicals. Avocados, Mangoes, pineapples have thick skin.
-Exotic, imported stuffs required for gourmet cooking. These produces have to travel across the world and treated chemically to keep them fresh. Apples, Figs, Oranges Sushi leaves, exotic mushrooms, non-Indian herbs.
-High cost and popular produces. Some of the fruits and vegetables have huge cost not because of the benefits they give but they have become a status symbol. People will carry apples, grapes, and pomegranates when they visit a sick person but not guavas or papayas. These are heavy profit produce and needs to be protected at any cost.
-Off season produces are stored in cold storage and sprayed with chemicals and gasses. In northern part on India we used to wait for winters to get cauliflowers, carrots, peas, now you get them all the time. Even if they are grown fresh climate will require them to be chemically treated as they will be vulnerable.
-Most of the grains like rice pulses are sprayed with chemicals to keep away the insects (Malathion for rice). Washing and soaking grains removes a lot of surface pesticides/colors and polishing stuff.
-Not a native of the land- There have been a lot of experiments with fruits and vegetables of other climates. Strawberry Broccoli, Purple cabbage are some of them. They belong to a different climate and need lot of special care as they don’t have natural defence against predators of this land. Nature has given every region a balanced range of produces and we should stick to our home produce most of the time.
-Wash fruits and vegetable either with potassium permanganate solution or use ozone wash to oxidize all the surface chemicals.
-Patronize local ‘Pheriwala’- cycle vendor carrying his home produce.
Click to see what you should buy organic.
Ames BN, Profet M, Gold LS, Dietary pesticides (99.99% all natural) Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 87(19):7777–7781. (October 1990)
Data on carcinogenicity of natural and synthetic compounds are referenced in Gold, L.S., et al. (1992) _Science_ Vol. 258, pp. 261-265.