My children LOVE berries.  Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and especially strawberries!  I could give them each a pint and they would praise me for being the best mom in the world!  Other than the big bellyache they would get from eating this much deliciousness, there is another downside to eating all of these berries.

Pesticides.

According to the EWG’s Dirty Dozen, strawberries comes in at #3 and blueberries make it to #10 of the dirtiest produce.

With strawberries and other summer fruits being in such high demand (even in the off-seasons) growers feel the pressure to churn out more fruit and lose fewer profits.  Therefore they utilize pesticides to ensure as little crop death as possible, and many consumers enjoying their Strawberry Shortcake in December fail to recognize the harm they may be ingesting.

Thankfully, some of the most toxic of the pesticides used on our fruits and veggies are being phased out (methyl bromide) or eliminated from use completely (methyl bromides replacement, methyl iodide), but there are still many pesticides being used to control crops and boost profits.  According to tests done in 2008, strawberries were found to have 54 pesticide residues on them, while blueberries had 52!

Now, like I have said in the past, I try to keep my fear of chemicals at an acceptable crazy-lady-swatting-food-out-of-your-hand level.  My kids eat strawberry/berry products when it is not in my control to offer alternatives, like at school or relative’s houses (though I am training them well- the family members and my kids).  But, the berries that make their way into my house are carefully chosen to be as free of pesticides and chemicals as possible.

Balance.

So what can you do:

– It is not always in the budget to buy organic, but if you can swing only a few things, strawberries and blueberries should be on that list.  Many of the tests for pesticide residue found 0% in organic versions.

– Buy local and ask questions at the farm stand.  Ask if they use any spray, pesticides, herbicides, etc.  Remember that even if they just spray the soil and not the fruit the pesticides are actually making their way into the fruit while growing.  Good responsible growers will tell you the truth.  If they hem and haw or don’t seem to know what you are asking, move on.

– Choose pick-your-own farms that are willing to discuss with you what their growing practices are.   Many growers are not seeking Organic status for many reasons (cost being one of them), however they utilize organic or natural growing processes.  You can find lists of pick-your-own places in your area at this website.

– Grow your own!  You can easily find plants at a nursery or grow your own from seeds with your kids.  Not a lot of space or living in an apartment? Grab one of these  planters and have at it!  Your kids will think it is pretty cool that they can pick their own berries in the back yard or on the deck, and they learn a little science lesson in the process.

– Don’t freak out if Grandma is serving berry cobbler (with ice cream!) and she has no clue where they came from… balance the good with the bad.  I’m pretty sure the berry cobbler will taste fantastic!

Come back next week when I share my tips for washing your berries to make them last TWICE as long (if your kids will let them go that long)!