cooking tips

Organically Known

Curious about organics? Let’s take a closer look…

Do you look for the USDA Certified Organic seal on products when you shop? If so, you already know that buying organic can really impact the quality of your diet, and in turn, your lifestyle. But did you also know that there are certain tidbits of info that can help you get the most for your money and extend the life of your organic food?

cutting board with veggies
basket with veggies

organic: an overview

In short, organic food is that which is produced and processed in a way that does not hurt the environment. To delve a little deeper, we need to look at the soil in which organic crops are grown. The soil is required to be safe and void of any chemicals or synthetic substances for a minimum number of years (usually two years, as specified by the certifying agency.)

The processes used in the manufacturing and handling of food must also meet stringent standards. No pesticides or artificial fertilizers can be used on crops and no growth hormones or periodic antibiotics can be given to the livestock.

For their end products to be labeled “organic”, livestock and milking cows must graze on pasture for at least four months a year, while chickens must have freedom of movement, fresh air, direct sunlight and access to the outdoors.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are prohibited from being labeled as organic. GMOs are plants or animals that have been subjected to genetic engineering to apply specific changes to their DNA. (If it’s labeled organic, it should not contain GMOs, but it’s labeled non-GMO, it’s not necessarily organic.)

girl buying fruit

organic buying tips

The most contaminated fruits and vegetables (with the highest pesticide residues) are: peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes (imported), spinach, lettuce and potatoes. If you have to choose your organics, choose these!

Keeping the list above in mind, the most important fruits and vegetables to add to your own organic must-buy list are the ones you and your family eat most often.

A good rule of thumb is to prioritize organic fruits and vegetables that have thin skins, like apples and berries. These foods tend to absorb the most pesticides and herbicides..

The most budget-friendly organics are usually the ones that are in season (and, preferably, local.)

Always wash organic produce before storing, cutting or consuming. Never assume that the lack of pesticides means your purchases don’t need to be washed. Bacteria is ALWAYS a concern!

Store organic grains as you would any others – in airtight containers. They will keep longer in the fridge (up to 6 months) or even in the freezer (up to 1 year.)

Organic beef (or “grass fed”) contains up to four times more heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed beef, so add it to your menu if you can!

related recipes

vegetarian dumplings

40 minutes | makes 8