should you be buying organic?

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A few weeks ago I had the most amazing carrots.

Possibly the most delicious carrots ever. They were sweet and bright and bursting with carroty goodness. They made the most divine salad for my 5 Minute Salads class at the Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School. I was very excited about these carrots.

The thing is they were organic. From the supermarket, but organic.

And it got me thinking.

I’m pretty fickle when it comes to which produce I buy. Some weeks I’ll get up early and drive over an hour to the Canberra farmers market so I can pick the best looking seasonal produce direct from the grower.

Other weeks, I make do with my local supermarket veg. Generally there’s not a huge amount of choice. But I do usually take the time to have a look at the organic section and compare with the conventionally farmed veg. And generally pick whichever looks best on the day.

So based on flavour, should we be buying organic?

Without having the ability to test and compare nutrient levels or pesticide residues, I thought I’d approach the question from the perspective of flavour. At least I do have a decent set of taste buds.

To keep things simple, I picked up conventional and organic samples of three different veg. And evaluated them raw.

Unfortunately there were significant visual differences between them all, so I wasn’t able to taste them blind – I knew which was which.

the taste test results

carrots
organic – $5.30/kg
shorter and fatter. colour less vibrant orange
flavour bland. texture very crisp and fresh.

conventional – $1.98/kg
thinner and longer. vibrant orange colour.
wonderful sweet carroty flavour. less crisp than organic.

worth the difference?
No. (A bit of a surprise given my previously great carrot experience.)


white cabbage

organic – $3.98/half
larger, crisp fresh texture, sweet, clean flavour

conventional – $2.49/half
smaller, more compact leaves, crisp fresh texture. flavour distinctly cabbagey but not unpleasant.

worth the difference?
Yes. Only just, given the organic cabbage was larger and the flavour better.


brussels spouts

organic – $18.72/kg
pale, washed out colour, small compact.
sweet, clean flavour. crisp texture.

conventional – $7.96/kg
appealing dark green colour, larger, slightly more open.
flavour slightly sprouty but blander than organic. crisp texture.

worth the difference?
No. Slightly better flavour doesn’t justify the massive expense.

So where to from here?

To be honest, I was a little surprised at just how much more expensive the organic veg were and how good the conventional veg tasted in comparison.

I’ll still consider the organic section, but for me it will still be all about which produce looks best on the day. I’ll be looking at the price differential more carefully before choosing organic.

Of course there’s more to just flavour and price when it comes to your individual decision.

Where do you sit when it comes to organic produce?

winter slaw recipe11


5 ingredients 10 minutes
winter slaw recipe

serves 2-3 as a side

Feel free to play around with the veg in the slaw. Different cabbage such as red cabbage or savoy cabbage are lovely. But don’t feel constrained to the cabbage family. Carrot ribbons, beetroot, celeriac (celery root) even apples and pears are all good.

This is a wonderfully crunchy, fresh salad to serve as a side to most heavy winter dishes. To turn it into a meal on its own you could add some blue cheese, or shave in some parmesan, toss in a few hard boiled eggs or layer with some finely sliced proscuitto.

A madoline really helps to shave your veg as finely as possible. I’ve found the secret is to apply as little pressure as you can.

2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 white cabbage
6-8 brussels sprouts
small handful walnuts

1. Combine lemon juice with 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and season well.

2. Finely shave the cabbage using a mandoline or a sharp knife and a steady hand. Add to the dressing.

3. Trim the base of the sprouts and remove the outer leaves. Shave sprouts on the mandoline as well and add to the dressing.

4. Toss salad and sprinkle over walnuts.

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Since we’re half way through the year, thought I’d better check in and update my Now Reading page.

The good news is I’m well ahead of schedule for my goal to read 52 books again this year. Although I haven’t been reading enough food books. Just finished Nigel Slater’s Tender Volume 2. Would love to find something to live up to his wonderful food prose. Any recommendations welcome!

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