By Cynthia DeWitte
There are three main reasons for going organic whenever possible. Organic foods are not treated with synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides, but most non-organic fruits and vegetables are. Organic foods are never GMO (genetically modified organisms). Organic foods do not harm the environment, instead the farmer has to work the soil and add to it in order to get a good crop, rather than relying on synthetic means. This means our groundwater is not being contaminated by organic farming, when it often is by non-organic farming practices.
When we buy organic, we can be sure the foods we eat are free of harsh chemicals that can negatively impact our health and the environment. They are not grown from GMO seeds. In the case of animal products, they were not fed GMO feed, nor were they treated with unsafe chemicals or hormones. Animal products include meat, eggs, dairy, honey and all other products from animals or other living creatures. Not only can choosing organic immediately impact our health for the better, but it is also good for the environment.
Not all non-organic foods are GMO, but most non-organic foods have been treated with pesticides and possibly herbicides (to keep the weeds down) or fungicides as well. Many foods that have been treated with synthetic chemicals, can still be safe to eat if they are properly washed. It is important to wash all fruits and vegetables, organic or not, but washing non-organic fruit and vegetables is especially important to get rid of most or all chemical residues.
Washing fruits and vegetables can also protect against some of the foodborne illnesses that are occasionally on produce. This may sound gross, but you really do not know where the produce has been. It could have fallen on the floor or been handled by people that didn’t wash their hands when they should have. I have often seen children, who obviously have a cold, handling produce while shopping with their parents. Washing your produce will help protect you and your family from a wide range of issues that can easily be taken care of simply by washing your food.
There are some foods that you should either eat organic or not at all due to the increase of GMO (genetically modified organisms) foods. Organic foods are never grown with GMO seeds, so when something has a high probability of being GMO an organic version should be chosen or the item should be not be considered a safe food. To be perfectly clear, washing fruits and vegetables does not work for GMO. GMO cannot be washed off. It is part of the plant’s cell structure and genetic make-up, so don’t buy it. For everything else, be sure to wash it before eating it. More on GMOs will be covered in another article.
There are simple ways to wash your produce that do not require expensive products. Make sure to wash all fruits and vegetables, even the ones that you are going to peel. If they have chemical residue, dirt or other issues and you don’t wash it off first, that residue will go from the skin to the part you are going to eat. I recommend washing everything, including fruits that are normally peeled like watermelon or citrus fruit.
For fruits and vegetables that can be soaked, fill a pan with cool water and add ½ cup of apple cider vinegar. Soak for 10-30 minutes, then rinse in cool, running water. This can perk up wilting greens as well. Your vegetables will not taste like vinegar.
For items that cannot be soaked, or if you prefer to just wash and rinse them, use a produce wash. This Bi-O-Kleen product works great. Only a little is required. A bottle this size will last me for a month. I use it to wash apples, peaches, watermelon, etc. For soaking, I usually use the vinegar method, but sometimes I fill the pot with water and add Bi-O-Kleen Produce Wash, especially for things like cherries or for berries that I don’t want to soak. Add the berries to the pot of soapy water and swish them around, then rinse in cool running water. Your food will not taste like soap. This product works great and completely rinses off. I feel much better knowing that my fruits and vegetables are clean.
I have heard of using baking soda to wash vegetables, but I haven’t tried due to using baking soda to clean counters and so forth and finding that it leaves a residue and is a lot more difficult to rinse off than vinegar. In fact, vinegar is often used as a rinse. It not only kills germs, but it also dissolves dirt and chemical residue, so it is a terrific cleaner that completely rinses off leaving no unwanted vinegar flavor.
I either get my vinegar at Costco or a restaurant grocery supply for under $5 per gallon. That’s hardly more than gas and it goes a lot further.
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