Yesterday we discussed bugs and more specifically the effect of pesticides on bugs. This is one of the reasons I am choosing more and more to eat local food when I can. Generation Y, Americas current youth, is actually expected to have a SHORTER life expectancy than that of their parents!!! Sure there are many, many factors that contribute to this but I can’t help but think it may be because of what we are putting in our mouths. Obesity is a huge problem in this country. Congressmen, legislators and doctors say it all has to do with our food choices and I couldn’t agree more. Now the aforementioned individuals are probably referring to candy and soda which I do not deny is a major if not main problem with our youth. However, I have yet to hear anyone suggest that a main cause may be hidden inside of the foods we consider “safe”. Things like fruits and vegetables, meat, eggs, dairy products. The things we don’t typically consider “junk food”. When we spray our foods with pesticides, feed our animals food that has been grown using pesticides and inject our food source with hormones and antibiotics we are really just asking for it. To assume that all of this gets washed off or cooked out is a false assumption!
Before you read any further I want you to grab a pencil and jot down a list of the 10 to 12 most common fruits and vegetables you purchase in your local grocery store. Set this list aside. We will discuss it in a moment!
The Enviornmental Working Group (www.ewg.org), a non-profit environmental group working in Washington, D.C., recently did a simulation to show how the average american can lower his pesticide intake by nearly 90%. Due to high demands for certain fruits and vegetables, growers are forced to take drastic measures to maintain a steady flow of product to consumers. Listed below are the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables on the market. By eliminating these items and choosing ORGANIC varieties instead you can prevent your exposure to nearly 14 pesticides DAILY!
• Bell Peppers
• Imported Grapes
• Red Raspberries
Now compare this to that list we made a few moments ago. The top 4 items on my list were potatoes, peppers, celery and apples! YIKES!
So where does eating locally come into the picture? Fortunatly more and more grocery chains are beginning to purchase and sell more organic foods. While this is great it is still not the most ideal situation. The best way to know what you are getting and how it is grown is to buy it directly from the farmer himself. Small farmers are more likely to grow organic produce. If they do use pesticides they are typically using far less than mass market producers and your food has less distance to travel so it comes to you fresher. Farmers Markets and Farm Stands are great places to buy local. Here are my some of my tips for shopping at the market.
1. Browse before you buy. Look to see what is currently available. Look for signs indicating a particular item is organic (though it won’t always say).
2. Talk to the vendors. Ask if they grow the food themselves. You would be surprised how many times I have seen peaches in a basket at a market and the vendor tells me they were shipped in from California!
3. Ask if it is organic. If it is not, mention that you are interested in organic and ask if they have considered going organic on anything. Many farms are slowly making the change one product at a time. You may find out that this farmers peaches are not organic but his green beans are.
4. Be flexible. While buying organic is ideal it is not always possible. I live in an area where the word organic refers to something you can throw into the compost pile. Most people in my area are unfortunatly not all that concerned with growing organic produce yet it is slowly becoming more accessible. Buying Local/Organic food is wonderful but if your only choice is just Local it is still a better choice than buying from the grocery store.
In my next “episode” of Eat Local we will discuss food travel and will delve a little deeper into the true meaning and purpose of eating local.