Which fruits and veggies are most important to buy organic?

Q. Okay, I know that ideally I should buy all organic produce, but with food prices so high lately, I need to prioritize. Is there any way to tell which conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables have the most pesticide residue so I can at least avoid those? I just spent $5 for a dinky half-pint of organic blueberries and I can’t help wondering if it was worth it.  –Soren, Toledo, OH

A. Who isn’t feeling the hurt at that supermarket this summer? But if you want to cut corners, make sure you’re cutting the right ones. To that end, the non-profit Environmental Working Group has put together a cheat sheet of sorts that rates the most common fruits and vegetables for residual pesticides. EWG suggests that you avoid conventionally-grown fruits and veggies at the top of the list, which leads off with peaches, apples and bell peppers, and instead go for organics or some of the cleaner conventional crops (like avocados, sweet peas and mangos). As for whether your pricey blueberries were worth it, that’s your call, but the EWG rankings can help you make an informed decision: conventionally-grown bluettes rated a 24 on a scale of 1 to 100 (with 100 being the most contaminated). So check the list before you head to grocery store, but also keep in mind that the farmer’s market can be a good place for penny pinching, too. Not only do organic crops tend to be a little cheaper when you buy direct from the farm, you can also sometimes find farmers who are transitioning into organic certification. Often, they’ll forego pesticides while they wait to be approved for organic certification, but sell their crops for less than what organic varieties usually fetch. Plus, at this time of year, many crops are hitting peak growing season, so farmers have surplus and prices will be dropping locally. So stock up and eat healthily without spending a fortune. 

-         Sarah Schmidt

Eco-inquiries, conundrums, snafus? Write to askplenty@plentymag.com.

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