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Produce: The Clean And The Dirty - Modern Alternative KitchenModern Alternative Kitchen

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Whether you buy organic produce or not, it is still important to wash it before consumption. Why?

  1. To remove soil. I personally do not enjoy eating a gritty salad.
  2. To remove harmful bacteria. You have probably heard stories on the news about contaminated produce.
  3. To remove pesticides. Pesticides are designed to be toxic; therefore, it is best to avoid them when possible.

With what should you wash your produce? I’ll leave that up to you, but I have heard that a vinegar and water mixture will remove pesticides on most fruits and vegetables. Read more about that here.

Let’s Back Up

If I buy organic produce then it should be free of pesticides, right? Unfortunately, most states allow organic farmers to use chemicals on their crops. This is why it is important to wash all of your produce prior to consumption.

Why Buy Organic?

If we can’t avoid pesticides by eating organic produce, then what’s the point of spending extra money to buy organic? One reason to still buy organic produce is because it has a higher nutrient content than conventionally grown produce. It is possible, though, that organic produce is not your best option. Lori talked about the benefits of buying local produce in her post, 3 Reasons Eating Local is Even Better Than Organic.

Best Way To Avoid Pesticides

The best way to avoid pesticides in our produce is to use the EWG’s 2012 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. They have created two lists, The Dirty Dozen which tells us the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables, and The Clean 15 which tells us the 15 least contaminated fruits and vegetables. If a fruit or vegetable is on The Dirty Dozen list, look for organic varieties for minimal pesticide usage. The Clean 15 list can help you save money on groceries by knowing which produce does not need to be organic.


The Dirty Dozen:

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Sweet bell peppers
  4. Peaches
  5. Strawberries
  6. Nectarines – imported
  7. Grapes
  8. Spinach
  9. Lettuce
  10. Cucumbers
  11. Blueberries – domestic
  12. Potatoes

Plus, Green beans and Kale/Greens

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The Clean 15:

  1. Onions
  2. Sweet Corn*
  3. Pineapples
  4. Avocado
  5. Cabbage
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Eggplant
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cantaloupe – domestic
  12. Sweet potatoes
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Watermelon
  15. Mushrooms
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I will note that I would recommend only buying organic sweet corn to avoid GMOs. If you are unaware of the harmful effects of genetically modified organisms, please read JerriAnn’s post, GMO’s 101.

How Do I Remember This?

While grocery shopping last month, I found avocados on sale, but I couldn’t remember if they were one of the Clean 15 or Dirty Dozen, which I was very bummed about.  Since that experience I have become more equipped. The EWG has a little guide you can print out and keep with you, but since I already have enough to carry with me to the grocery store, I downloaded the EWG’s free App called Dirty Dozen onto my iTouch.

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Also, if your produce is not consistently labeled as organic or not with signs, you can tell by the PLU Code on the sticker. If it has a 4-digit code starting with a 3 or a 4, it is conventionally grown. If it has a 5-digit code starting with a 9, it is organic. If is has an 5-digit code starting with an 8, it is genetically modified.

It’s a great feeling to be armed with the knowledge needed to live a healthier, pesticide-free life.

How Do You Avoid Pesticides In Your Produce?

**This post is entered into Fat Tuesday, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #40, and Kitchen Tip Tuesday. **

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  1. So what do you do about the ones not listed? Broccoli?


    • Hi Joanna,
      If you go to EWG’s website, they have a full list of 45 fruits and veggies with the lower numbers being the produce with the most pesticides. Broccoli is number 25; almost right in the middle. So what do you do? I try to buy all of my produce organic, but I have been thinking that I should start buying more local produce.. just need to find good places to buy from.


  2. Thanks for the info abut the PLU sticker. That is new info for me.


  3. you are just so clever – i love your posts. i avoid pesticides in my produce by A. growing it myself; B. getting most of it from our CSA; C. getting the rest from the farmer’s market. of course, nobody’s perfect and we do supplement some things from the grocery store but we limit our exposure to scary ingesting things when and where we can 🙂 which is really all anyone can ask.

    p.s. on more time because i love your posts: haha… it’s The Wednesday Fresh Foods Blog Hop today – just in case you haven’t been harassed by me enough already. you’re welcome to stop by and link up if you like!


    • Hi Kristy,
      Thanks for your kindness. Sounds like you’re doing a great job finding good produce.

      Sorry I wasn’t around on Wednesday to link up, but I let my editor know about your website to possibly link up in the future.


  4. […] can be expensive. But not all fruits and vegetables have to be organic to be consumed safely. On Tuesday, Beverly explained the Dirty Dozen list and the Clean 15 to help you decipher which veggies need to […]


  5. […] Produce: The Clean and the Dirty from Modern Alternative Kitchen. This is a good reminder. […]


  6. I had no idea about the PLU codes. GMOs start with 8, wow! Good to know! I have the EWG app on my phone because I found myself always forgetting. Some of the veggies that aren’t on either list come down to a cost savings analysis for me. If I buy conventional over organic will I be saving a nickle or two bucks? Is it worth it? And anytime the clean 15 is on sale I stock up! Organic almost never goes on sale at my grocery, no idea why. It has seasons too obviously and should be cheaper during parts of the year.


    • Hi Erin,

      I wanted to include what a facebook friend of mine noted:

      “Unfortunately you will never see an “8” on a produce label, because GMO’s are not labeled and the GMO industry would like to keep it that way. So be careful when you choose the conventional produce. Don’t assume it’s GMO free because it doesn’t have an “8”. If anyone has ever seen an “8” I’d like to know. Talking to produce managers in local grocery stores I haven’t even found one who has seen the GMO “8”.”

      It would be great if manufacturers had to label GMO’s…maybe someday :).


  7. […] fruit blueberries are! Make sure you purchase organic blueberries, since blueberries are on the dirty dozen list, as they are heavily sprayed with toxins and, mom-to-be or not, you don’t need those in your […]


  8. […] are on the Clean 15 list, meaning they were found to have the lowest pesticide residue by the Environmental Working […]


  9. […] Read about the best way to avoid pesticides at Modern Alternative Kitchen: Produce: The Clean And The Dirty […]


  10. […] can be expensive. But not all fruits and vegetables have to be organic to be consumed safely. On Tuesday, Beverly explained the Dirty Dozen list and the Clean 15 to help you decipher which veggies need to […]


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