Posted by Fiona Cole on June 24, 2011
With summer fast approaching, it’s time for flip-flops, sun hats and the seasonal indulgence of fresh strawberries and cream. But before you tuck in, it is important to know that within those deliciously sweet red beauties lurks a danger to our children, and us.
The USDA has compiled a “Dirty Dozen” list of produce from the USDA Pesticide Data Program. Out of all of the produce appearing on the shelves in our grocery stores, conventional strawberries ranked third in the ‘most toxic’ list, containing no less than 54 pesticide residues. Furthermore, nine of the pesticides found on strawberries are known or suspected carcinogens. And that is after the fruit was washed with a high pressure hose. Not so sweet!
According to the USDA, non-local and non-organic strawberries are the biggest offenders. When we buy non-organic strawberries from the store out of season, they are often imported from foreign countries that are legally allowed to use even more pesticides than the U.S. The USDA recommends that all produce on the “Dirty Dozen” list should be bought organic wherever possible, in order to minimize our toxic load.
The good news is that with summer comes the opportunity to buy the best possible strawberries for your family. Strawberries are in season and finding local, organic strawberries becomes easier. Buying strawberries grown locally also means that the strawberries do not have to be treated with chemicals to preserve them during long journeys.
If you buy really close to home, at a farmer’s market, for example, you can ask the grower in person about their pesticide and chemical use. Some small, local farms which are not necessarily certified as organic still do not use harmful chemicals on their crops.
As well as reducing our toxic load, when you buy local, organic strawberries, you can taste the difference. Have you ever bitten into a huge, shiny strawberry and tasted… well, nothing? Often local and organic strawberries are more irregular in appearance but pack a much juicier punch than their toxic cousins.
So gather up your flip-flops and sun hats and head for the farmer’s market. If you are lucky enough to live near a U-pick farm, get the kids out in the fields and have some strawberry-picking fun. Or for the more ambitious strawberry-lover, plant your own! All you need is a sunny spot outside and a little patience. Strawberries can be grown in the yard or in containers on decks.