Are Your Strawberries Toxic?

A few years ago, I spent my summer volunteering on organic farms in Italy and on Vancouver Island. It was an experience I'll always treasure from planting tomatoes for the young couple who owned the Umbrian agriturismo to pulling hundreds of heads of garlic for the feisty chef who ran the island farmstay.

Days ended with dirt under my nails and delicious farm-to-table dinners shared with the crew, like Valdilia and her son Victor who lived on the farm.

In the garden with fellow gardener, Valdilia, and her son Victor. This shows just one-quarter of the entire garden we maintained for the farm-stay chef.

In the garden with fellow gardener, Valdilia, and her son Victor. This shows just one-quarter of the entire garden we maintained for the farm-stay chef.

A longtime advocate of organic food, this experience instilled in me an even deeper appreciation for organic farmers. With farmers' markets in full swing, it's the perfect time to remind you to buy organic whenever possible. Here's why, including the most and least toxic fruits and veggies:

Reduce Your Toxic Exposure
Did you know conventional strawberry growers use an average of 54 pesticides on their crops?

Pesticides are toxic by design. Their job is to kill living organisms like pests and fungi. Many have been linked to health problems such as brain and nervous system toxicity, birth defects, cancer, hormone disruption, obesity, diabetes, and skin, eye and lung irritation.

Infants and children are especially vulnerable due to their smaller size and developing bodies.

Protect Farmers and the Environment
When you buy organic, you're supporting environmentally friendly farming practices that safeguard workers, minimize soil erosion, and protect water quality and wildlife.

Meet Your Farmers
Organic certification is expensive so some farmers opt out yet still follow organic methods. Get to know your local growers and their practices.

Shop Smart
Organic fruits and veggies may not always accessible or affordable for you. You can often save money by buying local and seasonal produce.

The Environmental Working Group's nifty Shoppers' Guide will help you make the best choice given your circumstances. You can reduce your pesticide intake substantially by avoiding the most contaminated produce.

Dirty Dozen Plus
(highest in pesticides)

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Sweet bell peppers
  4. Peaches
  5. Strawberries
  6. Nectarines (imported)
  7. Grapes (imported)
  8. Spinach
  9. Lettuce
  10. Cucumbers
  11. Blueberries (domestic)
  12. Potatoes

Plus:
Green beans
Kale/Greens


Clean 15
(lowest in pesticides)

  1. Onions
  2. Sweet corn*
  3. Pineapple
  4. Avocado
  5. Cabbage
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Eggplant
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cantaloupe (domestic)
  12. Sweet potatoes
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Watermelon
  15. Mushrooms

Click here to get a phone app or downloadable file (PDF) from the Environmental Working Group.

*Most corn is genetically modified. If you're concerned about GMO foods, buy organic.

Source: Environmental Working Group