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
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.)
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.
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?
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.
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!
I would like to be able to buy organic more often, but it is very expensive. It’s not primarily for the flavour, though, but for my health and that of the agricultural workers. I think organic tomatoes and other veg where you eat the skin are worth paying for. And organic milk, though I can’t always get it (or afford it) here in Hong Kong.
thanks for your input – good point to consider whether you’re eating the skin or not..
I think a good rule of thumb is to get the ‘dirty dozen’ of fruit and vegetables as organic. For me it’s not only about the taste, but I also consider the amount of chemicals/pesticides, as well as the origin of the food. I am trying to buy local when I can and also support the smaller businesses and stall holders.
Given the miles most of the fruit and veg travel where I live, I normally go for what looks best on the day. Even the organic products are flown in from all around the world, packed on to a truck and delivered.
Being able to choose (and have access to the variety of organic fruit and veg and meats that you have in Australia) is not something that all of us have! We don’t even have a farmer’s market in our city, let alone in our province? Because I do try and think of where my food comes from and how far it has tavelled, I feel a bit uncomfortable driving 2 hours and 40 minutes (one way) to buy a few kilos of potato- Sure if I want dried beans/fruits/grains those are available in a specialist supermarket, but fresh vegetables, fruit and meat?? Unless it is vension…then it is only about once a month that we can get parts of an organically fed chicken….. and yes I do buy it!
At least I have to space to grow my own veg – and I do try to grow whatever I can in our short (2-3month) growing season. Summers are brief here, and that makes it tough, but they are probably the best carrots, beetroot and spinach greens I have ever eaten. Foraging for mushrooms and herbs is OK too, as is berry picking. I just miss fresh foods for the rest of the year when we eat what we’ve collected dried/pickled/preserved in some way.
Great post. I think there is indeed so much to consider when buying organics – cost, taste, health and of course the environment. I’ve found that sometimes, on taste alone, they are worth the extra cost – I remember buying some peaches this year from a local market that were perhaps the best peaches I’ve ever eaten and of course, sometimes I’ve bought some apples that were pretty bland! Luckily in Melbourne there are quite a number of markets (eg, CERES) that make organics incredibly affordable, that also support local farmers and communities.
I think it is too simplistic to say ‘organic or conventional’. I think we need to be more connected to where our food comes from, how it is grown and how far it has had to travel to get to us. I love getting my fruit and vegies through a CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) here in Brisbane called Food Connect http://www.foodconnect.com.au. I love eating seasonally, knowing that the farmers are getting a fair price, that my food has been sourced from within 5 hrs of Brisbane and that sustainable farming practices are encouraged. I hadn’t had carrots for months (since there were none in season around Brisbane) up until last week. These carrots were amazing. So sweet, fresh and tasty. I crunched through one raw, like an apple yesterday.
And most of all I LOVE ignoring the supermarket fruit and vegies section – by passing it completely!!
Is it more expensive? Yes compared to some supermarket items but I believe supermarket ‘special’ prices etc are not sustainable, nor fair to the farmers. And where ever possible I’d rather not support the duopoly supermarkets.
I find this a cheaper way to buy my food for various reasons, Through buying fresh delicious products I am less inclined to buy take away (saving money) and you can buy some items as 2nds for juicing or saucing.
I also think it depends, how you view it and what cost you put on your own health and also the planet’s health.
And back to your reasons for your experiment – flavour…
Yep it wins hands down, as does the fruit and vegies I grow in my garden. :)
I recently found a word for the way I like to eat – SOLE food. Sustainable, Organic, Local and Ethical.
I believe it truly nourishes the soul!!
I think that eating locally is the most important thing (think about all the fuel involved in transporting food around the globe when you can get great produce in season from your own region or country), and organic is next on my list. I personally don’t want any more chemicals going into my body than I can help, and as Sarah above said, anything that is being sprayed will have large amounts of those chemicals in the skin. This is also true for any root veg (like carrots!), which are soaking up everything from the soil around them. But the truth is that most organic foods in supermarkets are coming from a great distance and are simply not going to taste as good (with fruit this is because it has to be picked early so as not to spoil in transport). That is why I prefer to go without tomatoes and strawberries in the wintertime and citrus in the summertime- I’d rather get as much as I can from close to home because it’s going to taste the very best!
Buying based on what looks good on the day and the market deems more palatable is what got us backed into a corner in the first place. 100’s of species of Banana gone to be taken over by the vast monoculture of Cavendish around the world. It’s the reason tomatoes no longer have a season. Sterile seedless watermelons and grapes that can no longer self propagate because they where bred to ‘look and taste’ better.
If it’s a question of cost, the longer these organic, original, diverse pieces of produce are squeezed out by huge farm corporations, then the more expensive they’ll become in the future.
I’m totally surprised by the concept of this story.
You won’t have a food blog in 10 years if we don’t understand where our food really comes from.
I am so sorry your organic produce is so expensive. We don’t have much of a price difference and we do a CSA (Consumer Supported Agriculture) which brings the price of organic way down. But not considering price and thinking about pesticides I would choose organic. The quantity of pesticides one person consumes is staggering. What an unborn baby has in it’s system is a crime. I do also have a little garden to supplement. I think it is always good to know how to grow ones own food even if you don’t have a huge area. Fresh picked snow peas are awesome! If I can’t find any organic then I will buy regular and wash well. I find the biggest difference in whether it is in season or not. We try to eat in season and the kids will eat any vegetable because they say they are sweet in season. So buy local buy in season!
People, if you have a back yard/court yard….grown your own veg. We do, it will always taste better than anything you can buy from a market, especially the Canberra Growers Markets, which I feel are very expensive, considering the middle man has been taken out. Also if you live in Canberra, go to Choko Ba Jo for organic produce (Nth Lyneham and Curtin) great produce, mostly local and surprisingly cheap. The more we shun the big guys, who sell produce that screw the producers, environment and pretty much everyone in between the better we will all be.
Hi Jules. Love your blog, which I recently discovered. One little question about the winter slaw…do you shave the brussals sprouts in raw? I’ve never eaten a raw brussels sprout =)
I seem to be on the same page as a lot of your readers – I buy organic for the foods I know to hold on to pesticides (like strawberries) but otherwise, I’m much like you and just try to find the freshest produce I can on the day. I wash all of my produce anyway, so I don’t get too worked up over growing products. I tend to swing more towards organic when buying canned or boxed foods, simply because those items leave out the scary chemicals. If I had my choice though, I would go local over organic any day. I’m more concerned with supporting my local community and farmer than I am with organic vs. conventional. This was a great post, in all the organic vs. not buzz, I hadn’t really stopped to think too much about taste comparison.
I always choose organic and if it’s local that’s even better. Both of my older sisters have been diagnosed with Lupus, so I try my best to avoid pesticides (link to pesticides exposure suspected but not proven). I’m taking no chances. We’re lucky here in that organics are readily available, affordable (usually more expensive though) and our budget thankfully doesn’t require us to make grocery decisions based on cost. We (husband and I) are vegetarian, so we don’t buy meat (save some money there) plus we feel the extra expense was worth it if it helps us to stay healthier and avoid health care expenses down the road. You never know, but my work as a naturalist has made me very away of the damaging effects of pesticides at our local nature preserves, so it has become a personal decision to not knowingly support their use. When you buy conventional, you are “voting” for the use of pesticides as a farming practice. You may not agree with our choices, but that’s okay. We all do the best we can with what we know, our values, and what we can afford.
I try to buy organic whenever possible, although like you, I sometimes cringe at the cost. But if something is really that expensive, and I can’t afford, it, I buy something else. I buy organic for the health benefits, the environmental benefits, and the human rights issue of preventing farmworkers from being exposed to such toxic chemicals – especially because they don’t have many health resources.
That being said, I do think there are lots of local farmers that aren’t certified organic that use very few pesticides or insecticides or can’t afford being certified or what not. I will still buy that produce – it’s just a matter of talking to the farmer to find out what the deal is.
I guess, in short, what I’m saying is that I personally don’t go buy taste alone. There are too many other factors to consider that involve the future of our planet and our food supply.
Very much the same–I buy organic and/or local as much as possible, and local *and* organic is the best. For me, it’s about supporting healthier agricultural practices and small family farms. I buy ethically raised meats whenever possible as well. We have a wonderful farm stand with reasonable prices and a huge selection (not just veg, but bread and gluten free things and tofu, etc)–it’s just a matter of my getting myself over there! The prices are not terribly high for the produce, but the meats can be shocking (but the difference in taste is so stunning it’s worth it). I get that not everyone can afford to buy organic (let alone, say, locally raised bison), and I try to not judge that and instead to be grateful that I have the option (and I’m remembering as I type that our awesome farm stand takes all manner of food stamps and actually loads up a bus and travels into the grittier parts of the city to sell local and organic to folks with no access to those things otherwise—I need to make a bigger effort to support them by shopping there more often!).
We have local produce and meat and eggs delivered weekly (freshpicks.com if you’re in the Chicago area), and whatever we need additionally, we purchase from Whole Foods, where we’ve found the produce and meat to be uncomparably beautiful and delicious, justifying the higher cost of that store. So I’d estimate our food is probably 75% or more organic and we feel it is worth paying more for the peace of mind I get from knowing I’m eating organic, and supporting local farmers. And even though conventional grocery stores do sell some organic produce, I find the quality to be awful and wouldn’t even bother buying organic from them. It is so worth it to me to pay more to shop at Whole Foods where the organic apples for instance are even more crisp and flavorful in my opinion than the conventional stores’ non-organic produce. Our shift to this has been gradual though, first just having the local produce delivered, than adding meat and eggs to our orders, then shopping more often at Whole Foods… So we’ve acclimated ourselves to the higher cost over time. Personally, I prefer to cut corners in other areas where I can, such as getting rid of our cable tv for instance, rather than scrimp on food quality and safety.
I will also add that what made me take the final leap to buying almost everything organic was learning more about GMO’s. Genetically modified food terrifies me, and once I learned that this was practically everything I was buying that wasn’t organic, that made up my mind to find ways to afford an organic diet!
This post was a great gateway to discussing organics vs. conventional. Agreeing with Liz and Karen, I buy organic for ethical reasons: environmental impacts, health for the underserved farm workers. I live in the Bay Area of California, and fortunately have many affordable options in organic to choose it over conventional. Not to mention a great growing season – buying seasonal is important, too! Because produce grown off season requires much more natural resources, creating more pollution.
However, I refuse to go to, say, Whole Foods and buy produce that’s been grown far away just to get it off season (and nectarines in the dead of winter that were grown in Chile are very unsatisfying haha). Buying local to support the local economy is also very important, as well as avoiding long travel miles that most conventional produce use. Well, I hope that sheds additional light. I look forward to your next posts!
I think your problem may be that you’re not really eating in season! Winter slaw at the height of summer? The organic brussels sprouts cost a fortune because they’re likely shipped in from some far off place where they can grow right now. Check out eattheseasons.com.
I’m in Australia so July is the middle of Winter here!
Oh! I do want to mention some great resources for reading up on organics vs. conventional produce. Friends of the Earth published a report in 2009 comparing the yield between the two, as well as the heavy politics of genetically modified (Monsanto craziness) produce:http://www.foe.co.uk
I try and always buy organic root vegetables, because of all they absorb from the soil. I also try to go to the farmers markets, where many of the vendors are organic anyway. Local and organic as much as possible for me.
I usually do what you do-compare by the day and buy what looks best-but i supplement with veg from my huge organic garden and other local gardeners. Produce is always better that way-perfectly ripe on the vine.
Great post. You definitely expressed the same views as I would have. In light of the price I sometimes choose conventional, and wondered if I was sacrificing flavor; but this has proved that maybe I’m not. Once again, great post!
Was really interested to read about your organic carrot taste test as this is so not my own experience. Carrots and potatoes are two vegetables I would always buy organic if they were available because my experience is that they taste as they should compared to the blandness of others. I now grow nearly all my own vegetables now so we get best taste even if they look a little unusual shapes sometimes and the extra thrill of knowing that you nurtured that food to the plate. Aside from the opinions about organic or not, that salad looks delicious and an inspiration for me to be a little more adventurous about the salad I make to accompany Friday night’s home made pizza.
I use the ‘lesser of evils’ system. I buy organic for the top 10 most contaminated and choose freely between the others.
It depends. I live on a student budget, which means that I simply can’t afford buying everything organic.
In summer I buy more organic than in winter, because I simply can’t go without peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes in winter and because veggies overall are cheaper in summer.
But I do plan to increase my organic ratio as soon as I earn “real money”.
As a mother of two small children we have vegetables everynight and fruit everyday. I would prefer them to eat organic but due to the price I dont buy organic very often. With so much pressure to feed everyone healthily, Im just happy the kids eat their vegies full stop. Come summer we like to grow as much as we can in our backyard.
My rough rule of thumb as budget allows, in order of priority:
Organic meats, milks, eggs etc – as I’m more concerned about fat-soluble chemical residues than water-soluble ones.
Fresh & seasonal
I do a lot of gentle nudging, sniffing and tactile appraisal of foods before I buy.
The heavier citrus fruits are always the juicier ones; ultra fresh capsicums squeak when you knock them together, and have a delightful hollow sound; carrots and asparagus and cruciferous veg are always sweeter when grown in the coldest possible earth.
For us, sourcing our food is an enjoyable, multi-sense experience, and the freshest, seasonal produce always comes home with us. Whether it was organically grown or not doesn’t determine final choice.
Many excellent points in the comments here, and I just wanted to add one regarding the flow of profits.. eating organic usually supports local growers and subsequently sustainable agricultural practices, whereas buying conventional ultimately supports large corporations like Monsanto, ConAgra, and Cargill that promote destructive monocrop farming and excessive petrochemical use.
I also wanted to second the many comments about additional reasons to choose organic; there are many other reasons beyond taste to go organic. Local is good, organic is good, local *and* organic is the best choice whenever available.. and, if you can find a grower that has healthy soil with abundant minerals, the food will taste amazing and be far healthier.. many people often don’t think about the range of quality of organic produce; there’s good and bad organic food as well. In order to find such a grower, look for one that has done soil quality tests with the Soil Foodweb Institute. The difference between eating conventional produce that has been shipped halfway around the world and fresh food from truly healthy soil is like night and day.
great comments here guys…
good to get the discussion flowing
I AM buying in season!
I live in Australia and it is definitely winter here in the Southern Hemisphere.
yes raw brussels… they taste really lovely and fresh!
Thanks for sharing the report on organic v’s conventional…
You raise and excellent point about the flow of profits… another consideration…the economic one that goes well beyond price.
And interesting you should mention the Soil Foodweb Institute.. my Dad is a massive fan of Elaine Ingham’s work..
Elaine Ingham’s work isn’t nearly as well-known as it ought to be. I think it should be required reading for anyone who’s a farmer or gardener.. a functioning soil food web is what makes agriculture work properly, after all! :)
like most others, I buy organic but not b/c of the taste, but b/c I want to support those farmers. I also try to buy locally b/c there is not much difference, in my opinion, between monocropped conventional and monocropped organic except that it makes the customer feel better. I also grow a lot of my own vegetables in our short new england season and therefore eat from my garden all summer. You can’t beat that.
However like most people I’m on a budget so I have to choose carefully. I also like to look at the “reduced” veggies in the supermarket. I still won’t buy non-organic stuff where I’ll eat the skin but you can often find things like banana or oranges there for super cheap.
If it comes down to it I prefer to buy frozen organic instead of fresh organic out of season b/c at least frozen are picked at peak and frozen almost instantly to preserve flavor.
For me buying organic never was for the reason of taste.
Last summer I moved from a city with a population of 1 mil+ to a wee 80,000. Sadly along with many other things, our new home doesn’t have a huge selection on the organic front. Even sadder is that most of the organic items are packaged in plastic which leads me to buy the conventional celery that is ‘naked’ over the organic celery that’s in a plastic bag. It makes NO sense to me.
In addition to the plastic factor, I’m also very conscious of the issue of local, fair trade (where applicable) etc in addition to the organic certification. Some days (like today when I don’t get off work until 8pm) the only option is the grocery store (rather than the health food store or farmers market). There aren’t any CSA’s here, I’ve looked. I would be game for that in a heartbeat.
I’m with you on this one Jules. I buy what looks best on the day and consider the miles they have travelled and also the seasonality when buying. Having said that, I often spend the extra on organic carrots. As someone else noted, root vegetables like carrots suck up a lot from the soil (I once read that they’re commonly used as cleansing crops, to suck out particular nutrients form the soil in preparation for another crop) and this (in my mind) also means all the nasty chemicals that exist in the soil too.
I am not a huge fan of raw cabbage but I can’t help thinking that a minute or two in a wok or frypan before adding the dressing would make this into an awesome warm stirfry dish too!
Not enough frying to make it soggy or anything, just enough to soften things a bit though. I think it’d be really yummy :)
The thing that surprises me the most, of this blog and all the comments, is the number of times I’ve read about the skin or the type of produce being a decider for organic vs. chem-ventional (hehe). Personally I wouldn’t feel that any vegie is particularly resistant to any of the crap that is sprayed on it. You’ve heard of the old rubbing garlic on your foot thing? Human skin is so easily penetrable, I am sure vegetable skin is too. I know, I know, there are studies showing which foods are worse. I’m just not sure who funded those studies, if you know what I mean?
Have you not read Michael Pollen or seen movies like “Food, Inc”? Buying organic produce supports an entire industry that itself supports a healthier world. Conventional produce may cost less but is so much more expensive in the long run when you consider the impact on the earth and what your purchase is supporting. Eating fast food is cheaper than cooking – some think it’s tastier, too… it’s not just about the cost – you must consider the affect of your purchase on the world. Eating food that’s grown by a caring, informed farmer is worth the difference in cost but will make all the difference in the world.
You got me wondering whether we can learn to smell the produce which will taste best. The equation on taste includes such factors as the variety of vegetable and how long ago the food was harvested. Like others have mentioned, CSA is a great choice. Vegetables taste different right after they are harvested, and even depending on the time of day they are harvested. According to my gardening experience, vegetables harvested early in the morning taste best. My CSA harvests in the morning and I collect in the afternoon.
For me CSA is more affordable than supermarket organic, though some of the prices have come down here in the Kansas City metro as competition with CSA and markets has increased. Thanks for a thought-provoking post.
I try to buy all meat organic. With vegetable and fruit, I value local higher than organic, so I tend to choose the local grown produce to the organic one.
It’s a great post .. enjoyed reading it.
I prefer local grown.. I know organic is good and we should go for that. But when it comes to Indian cuisines it’s tough to find all the ingredients.
Great post and comments. I don’t buy organic for the taste, I buy it because I think pesticides are bad for the soil and for farm workers. But it’s a trade-off between local, organic, seasonal and fair-trade: I’ve never found anything that matches all 4 of my criteria, so I make do with the best that’s available that day. I prefer fair-trade for things that don’t grow well in Australia (humidity-loving crops like coffee and cacao), and hope that our own laws are strong enough to protect our farm workers from mistreatment. Seasonal is the easiest to achieve, and living in Australia’s south-west means I can get a reasonable about of local stuff too.
Great point about smelling… the only problem is the packaging on both the organic and conventional.
Very jealous of your CSA box
and just wanted to share a comment I received from a Stonesoup subscriber via email..
“It’s not often that I feel compelled enough to put my finger on the keyboard but this time I feel that I just have too.
I also have done the organic verse standard supermarket produce testing and co-opted some friends so that we could blind test. We also were surprised at the results but then did a little more research and discovered the following:
Organic produce often sits on the shelves longer than “standard” produce as it costs more and does not turn over as quickly.
Organic produce often has a longer to market time than “standard’ produce.
While some “standard” produce farmers do use some pesticides the use of pesticides is always kept low, because the stuff costs money and I’ve yet to meet a rich farmer who uses things just because he/she can. Most farmers don’t so much use pesticides but fertilizers and then only the minimum as it too costs.
So the bottom line is that organic often tastes poor because it’s not very fresh and grown in soil that’s not terribly good due to the fact that many organic farmers are not farmers of many generations but “new” farmers who don’t necessarily understand their soils well.
That’s my soap box for today”
Hi Clance – we must be on the same wavelength – today I was craving for that crunch and made a fantastic colourful coleslaw for lunch and it hit the spot and was most satisfying for me and all the family – it always amazes me how my kids really miss the ‘crunch’ factor in winter too and they always really enjoy a coleslaw this time of year! . . . must admit though . . . I did miss my home grown organic celery, shallots and carrots. . . we are at the beach at the moment . . . which brings me to the subject of Organic . . I think your results were disappointing for the organic produce because it was most likely older than the other produce. So . . how is your garden growing? . . . probably slow given the time of year and your climate . . . won’t be long and we can start sowing for spring and summer . . . bring on August so I can get my seedlings started! Love Jane
A little random — what font did you use for the “organic” portion of text?
I would second supporting farmers, although I typically prioritize local over organic given how far our food often travels. Some of our local farmers have the organic seal, some don’t. We also grow a vegetable garden as weather permits, can and freeze veg when there’s plenty, and buy winter store potatoes and onions and local meat before the end of the market in the fall. As much as I want to support responsible farming, I will freely admit that we’re not perfect about buying organic in the winter – we don’t buy nearly as much produce then, almost none of what’s available is local, and our budget doesn’t permit it.
It sure is winter down here in North East Vic. Brrr. Unfortunately my cabbages are taking an age to mature so the winter slaw may turn into spring slaw the way things are progressing. Anyhoo. Great discussion over organic vs. regular. I don’t much to weigh in… locality finds me shopping mostly at Woolies and I generally buy only what looks crisp, deep in colour and only enough to top up my own garden produce.
A book recommendation; The Road (Cormac McCarthy) I’ve been a little slow to hop on Mr McCarthy’s band wagon. A tragically beautiful story.
Because the pesticides etc are produced somewhere, by someone.
Would you want to work in the factories that produce pesticides? Would you like to live next door? If not, is it okay to ask others to do it?
We don’t have this choice with all consumer goods but when I do, I use it.
Only organic for me! I dont want any pesky chemicals. My health is worth more than the price of a carrot. Plus – put the money into better food and save on medical bills for issues caused by non-organic and processed foods!!
Only one person so far has mentioned one of the larger factors in flavor: variety.
On Trivia Night, the question asked “What is the most popular variety of apple in the USA?”
My team dismissed Red Delicious (ugh: mushy, flavorless) and Golden Delicious (mushy … haven’t bothered since childhood) right off. We discussed the relative merits of Jonathans (a little too sweet), Macintosh (YUM: thin skinned and delicate, tartness without acidity), Roma (not bad, thick skin, tends to mush), Pippins (sweet, hard to find), Granny Smith (TART!, best for baking, yummy out-of-hand with peanut butter or cheddar), Pink Ladies (not bad, a bit grainy), Jonagolds (meh), Honeycrisps (sweet, similar to Golden Jonathans), Pink Ladies …
After two minutes, we looked at each other and said: We live in Washington (State), Apple Growers Extraordinaire … and wrote in (ugh) Red Delicious for the win.
In short (finally!), be sure you’re tasting the same variety across your samples. the organic farmer may have used a variety bred to disease resistance, where the conventional might (MIGHT) have used a less-resistant and more flavorful variety.
(OTOH, all farmers usually choose varieties for looks, travel and shelf-life. Look at the Red Delicious (ugh): awfully pretty, travels without much visible bruising and lasts forever … but thick-skinned, grainy at best and mushy at worst, oversweet and utterly dependent on pesticides.)
Finally (finally!) take a close look at the “Top Twelve Pesticide-ridden Fruit-veg OMG” article. The data are poor, the science is supect and you’ll have a “top” and “bottom” on any specturm … but that doesn’t mean that either end of the spectrum will harm you. Please visit Depleted Cranium for a review of the method used to determine the relative “harm” of various edibles.
Sorry: end of rant. Stepping off the soapbox now. :-)
Thanks for raising the variety perspective!
I’m hearing you about the red delicious..
And good to hear someone questioning the top 12 article – I’ll have to check it out
Organic is good for your health, but the main issue is their price very high compared to the regular one. :(
I just hope, the price of organic vegetables will be down, down and down from time to time. Hopefully! :)
Organic and local (homegrown or Farmers Market) – that’s where you get the difference! Growing organic crops for a supermarket market is just about a contradiction in terms. The poor old grower is trying to get monocrops large enough to attract a supermarket buyer, sturdy enough to transport and coldstore, consistent in size and shape enough to price by the kilo, long season varieties – no wonder taste goes out the window and prices are high. If you find the organic grower on home turf though, selling a mixed batch of in-season produce selected for taste and value and picked the same day and sold locally – that’s when you get the good stuff.
sometimes the difference in organic isn’t just about the flavor to me, it’s about the health of the migrant worker that picked that produce (s/he isn’t exposed to pesticides for 8 – 12 hours at a stretch in the picking process), the land the produce is grown in/on isn’t awash in petrochemical fertilizers & pesticides, the wildlife around the farm (from the bees that pollinate to the birds that pick seeds or crops, to the deer or racoons, etc.) isn’t exposed to continual chemicals and the water supply that we all use/access isn’t tarnished by the chemical run off from the farmer’s fields. I try to keep that in my mind as I pick my organic products at the stores & farmers markets. I, too, try to patronize the local markets as much as possible, knowing the dollars spent with them stays in our local economy and not with a middle man.
i rarely get to the farmers markets but do try to shop at choku bai jo wheni can (north lyneham & curtin). last weekend I went for the organic broccoli as it was not only nicer looking but cheaper than the non-organic! bit of a surprise!!
Go local! It takes better because it gets to you faster and fresher. When you buy in season, it’s almost always cheaper too!
Indeed, the variety of the item can vary so widely. Two peas grown in beds next to eachother, both sugar snap, both “organically grown” and yet one is ripe 2 weeks or more before the other and 5x as sweet. I like both, just for different kind of eating.
Also, local. Organic doesn’t mean it hasn’t been in a cooler loosing flavor as it traveled to your supermarket. That lost flavor is lost flavor that just cannot compete with local, closer to ripe harvested etc. etc.
I don’t know if you can get the variety from the supermarket and re-do such tests.
I love that you’re exploring the subject. I find the best tasting ones are the ones grazed directly from the garden. I do mean “grazed” as in from plant to hand to mouth and not even in the door to the kitchen. Then it doesn’t matter the variety, it will always win based upon freshness alone! :D
(although do one ingredient dishes qualify as dishes? ;)
I’m going to have to try out that place in nth lyneham.. organic broccoli cheaper? wow!
Yes the freshness thing.. so important! I’ve been thinking of how I could repeat the experiment… thanks for the suggestion.
And one ingredient dishes are still dishes – absolutely!
I dream of having a better veggie garden to experience what you describe
I choose organic because I don’t want to support conventional farming that depletes our soil and has toxic runoff that ends up in our drinking water.
Soil is a living thing. A living thing that dies when poisoned. In USA corporations have great power. More power than the people. Power that desires profit over life. I choose life.
Actually I do like you I pick what looks best and what is available. I do often pick organic. Prices are higher but when it becomes ridiculous I prefer to do not take it.
I like your test I wonder if the result would be the same with fruits ?
john I buy organic but I also use my own judgement on a day to day basis organic or reg vegies.
Your write up is a good model of it.
Food taste is important but so is health benefit and impact. I would rather pay the higher price and eat less and worry less about my health overall. Pesticides are very dangerous and living well is a daily occurrence. Also if you think about it….less Dr visits should also be factored in the equation.:)
Just made the slaw – delicious. I added some apricots as well. Thanks for another great recipe Jules.