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Peach Paranoia Passes

August 17, 2011

Yesterday was a bad day. I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s just say that young children can be trying. At the end of the day I really could have used a peach. Yes, I said a peach. A walk around the neighborhood in peace and quiet would just have taken too long. A stiff drink might have helped, but sometimes you can throw one back and still be angry.

However, it is impossible to stay grumpy when eating a sweet and fuzzy peach over the sink with its juices dripping down your hand and chin. I challenge you to try it.

Regrettably, I had just brought home some peaches and they still needed some time to ripen. This trick does not work with underripe peaches. The peaches I have on hand came from our CSA, but are not grown on the biodynamic farm. They are instead sourced from neighboring producers and are not even organic. In the past this has been a source of great concern, but slowly I’m becoming a bit less dogmatic.

I think it has something to do with winter.

Hopefully you are aware that conventional fruits and vegetables are known to contain vastly different quantities of pesticide residues. Things like onions and pineapples contain very few while apples and celery contain quite a lot. The Environmental Working Group has this handy dandy chart.

Peaches are in the top five of that list with a particularly heavy pesticide residue load.

Here is where I could use a bit of help from my chemist friends. Because the Pesticide Action Network produces a very scary app called What’s On My Food that quantifies and names each residue and suggests how it could harm you. The app tells me that conventionally produced peaches contain 62 total residues. Eight of these are known or probably carcinogens, 29 are suspected hormone disruptors, 12 are neurotoxins and 11 are developmental / reproductive toxicants. This is the list of some icky sounding chemicals:

1-Naphthol, Acetamiprid, Azinphos methyl, Azoxystrobin, Bifenazate, Boscalid, Captan, Carbaryl, Chlorothalonil, Chlorpropham, Chlorpyrifos, Clofentezine, Clothianidin, Cyfluthrin, Cyhalothrin (Lambda), Cyhalothrin (Total), Cypermethrin, Cyprodinil, Diazinon, Dicloran, Dicofol p p, Diflubenzuron, Dimethoate, Endosulfan I, Endosulfan II, Endosulfan sulfate, Esfenvalerate, Esfenvalerate+Fenval, Famoxadone, Fenamiphos sulfoxide, Fenbuconazole, Fludioxonil, Formetanate hydrochl., Imazalil, Imidacloprid, Iprodione, Methamidophos, Methomyl, Methoxyfenozide, Myclobutnil, Parathion methyl, Permethrin cis, Permethrin trans, Phosalone, Phosmet, Piperonyl butoxide, Propargite, Propiconazole, Propiconazole I, Propiconazole II, Pyraclostrobin, Pyridaben, Pyrimethanil, Pyriproxyfen, Spinosad A, Spinosad D, Tebuconazole, Tetrahydrophthalimide, Thiabendazole, Tetrahydropthalimide, Thiabendazole, Thiamethoxam, Trifloxystrobin, and o-Phenylphenol.

Is it any wonder I avoided conventional peaches for well over the past decade?

In Northern California there are plenty of organic peach growers, and most often those who care to produce the very best make sure to do it without synthetic pesticides. There, it is easy to conflate organic with best-tasting, because those two often go hand in hand. The situation in the northeast is different.

On our recent trip to Pennsylvania, my mother-in-law introduced me to “Chambersburg” peaches. I put the name in quotation marks because there now seems to be some doubt as to if they were truly from that fabled Franklin County town that’s known for its superior fruit. Regardless, the peaches we had were delicious, and they weren’t organic.

There were a few things that allowed me to enjoy these peaches.

1) We are mindful of pesticide loads throughout the year – Letting delicious, locally-grown conventional peaches into our lives for a few weeks during the height of their summer season seems like a pretty good splurge.

2) I’m trusting my body to do its job – Our bodies are pretty darn good about taking the wholesome nutrients from food, excreting the waste and filtering out the bad stuff.

3) Winter is long and full of apples – Summer is for peaches. And now that I’m actually living in a place filled with snow and ice during the winter, I find myself craving the fruits of August.

Now this doesn’t mean I’m gorging on large and tasteless peaches that are grown for their hardiness instead of their taste so they can be shipped all over the country and sold for $1 per pound.


I’m choosing my pesticide-laden fruits carefully, just as I would choose my cholesterol-laden pastries. If I’m going to eat something that’s not so good for me, I’m going to make it count. Like those great strawberries from Indian Ladder Farms.

I’d prefer to have my cake and eat it too, with delicious, local and organic fruit. But I’m not going to let summer’s treasures pass me by as I stand on principle. Instead, I’ll be selective, and enjoy it in moderation, without (much) guilt.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. RealFoodMom permalink
    August 17, 2011 12:29 pm

    Occasionally when grocery shopping, an acquaintance will be shocked to see me choose non-organic Hudson Valley apples over organic ones from Washington State, or conventionally grown local peaches over organics from California. “YOU are not buying the organic ones!?” For me, freshness and being local counts for a lot, and adds integrity to the produce even if it isn’t organic (plus it usually tastes better). Many of our small, local farms and orchards are not certified organic growers, but they use Integrated Pest Management, or other techniques, that make their products’ pesticide load way lower than that of a large, agribusiness operation.

  2. August 17, 2011 11:47 pm

    Do not dare to eat a peach.

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