How to avoid chemicals in your food without spending a fortune

Last year I wrote a blog post about my experience of comparing the flavour of organic vs conventionally farmed vegetables. It generated some great discussion in the comments and a few people made reference to the ‘dirty dozen’.

At the time I wasn’t really sure what they were talking about. Then recently the ‘dirty dozen’ crossed my path again in Nina Planck’s book Real Food.

So what is this mysterious ‘dirty dozen’?

It’s a list of fruit and veg with the highest levels of pesticides put together by the Environmental Working Group. Planck also included the ‘cleanest 12′ from the same source.

It’s an interesting concept.

Basically if you can’t afford to buy organic produce all the time, you can minimise your exposure to pesticides without spending a fortune. Just avoid conventionally farmed produce from the ‘dirty dozen’ list and instead choose conventional produce from the ‘clean’ list.

The Clean 15

(lowest in pesticides)


Sweet corn (frozen)




Sweet Peas





Cantaloupe (Rockmelon)

Sweet Potato




The Dirty Dozen Plus

(buy these organic)



Capsicum (bell pepper)










+ green beans

+ kale / collard greens

source: Environmental Working Group (EWG)

Why I have included a recipe for broccoli?

If you spotted that broccoli isn’t on either list, well done!

Here’s the thing, when I was planning this post, I referred to the list in Planck’s book published in 2009. Which did include broccoli in the ‘cleanest 12′.

So what’s happened to broccoli? Has it gotten dirtier?

The answer is I don’t know.

Closer inspection of the EWG website shows that broccoli now comes in as the 25th cleanest. It could just be that there have been more fruit and veg tested which have pushed broccoli out of the top list. Or there may be new tests which are detecting pesticides in broccoli that weren’t previously detected. Or maybe broccoli farmers have gotten more heavy handed with the pesticides…Who knows…

The thing it does highlight is that this list certainly isn’t set in stone. But it’s an interesting place to start…

roast broccoli-3

roast broccoli with creamy feta
serves 2

I’ve been roasting cauliflower for ages but it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I even thought to try roasting broccoli. I’m happy to report that the results were seriously good – with a lovely complex deep flavour – a whole world away from boring old boiled broccoli.

It does take a little longer, but you can easily do other things while the broccoli happily roasts away.

The other thing I love about this dish is slicing the broccoli. It gives more interesting textures than when the broccoli is chopped into florettes like usual.

2 heads broccoli
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
200g (7oz) feta
3 tablespoons natural yoghurt

1. Preheat your oven to 200C (400F).

2. Slice broccoli lengthwise into slices about 1cm (1/2in) thick. Drizzle with a little oil.

3. Roast for about 20 minutes or until the brocc is tender and browned on the edges. Drizzle with vinegar.

4. Meanwhile mash feta with the yoghurt and spread on the base of 2 plates. Top with cooked broccoli.

vegan / dairy-free – serve roast broccoli on a bed of hummus instead of the creamy feta.

more substantial – toss in a drained can of chickpeas with the broccoli.

hot! – serve drizzled with chilli oil or your favourite hot sauce.

carnivore – slice some chorizo and roast in with the broccoli.

cauliflower - replace broccoli with a large head of cauli.

video version of the recipe

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Looking for more tips for eating healthy on a budget?

Then you may be an ideal candidate for ‘Mastering the Art of Cooking on a Budget’. At the moment, the program is ‘Pay What You Can Afford‘ and all profits from the class go to two charities Oz Harvest (for Australian proceeds) and Feeding America (for $US proceeds).

To see if this class will be helpful for you go to:

With love
Jules x

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