Imagine biting into a plump, vibrant strawberry. The red berry promises a delightful explosion of flavor. Yet, beneath this innocent fruit lies a somber truth. The majority of conventionally-grown strawberries we buy bear the burden of pesticide contamination. Harmful chemicals infiltrate the flesh, leaving behind an invisible danger. These residues pose potential risks to our health and the well-being of our loved ones.
Feeding my kids fruit containing harmful chemicals is a no-go. According to the USDA, almost all strawberry samples tested in recent years contain at least one pesticide residue.
BUT how dangerous are strawberries and pesticides really?? Is it time to ditch conventional strawberries for organic seasonal berries?
Let’s unearth the truth of the familiar strawberry.
What Are Pesticides and Why Are They Used On Strawberries?
Pesticides are chemicals sprayed on plants by farmers. When used on strawberries these pesticides protect them from bugs and diseases. The problem is that not all pesticides are harmless. They can come with negative impacts on both the environment and our health.
Carcinogens, Endocrine Disruptors, Neurotoxins. Why take the risk of ingesting these toxic chemical residues when there is a safer alternative?
When I have the choice I definitely choose organic strawberries to avoid pesticides.
Every day we come into contact with toxins, so why unnecessarily add to the burden with something as simple as a strawberry.
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The Impact of Conventional Strawberries
Pesticides are harmful to our health, especially for growing children. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the pesticides used on strawberries can cause the following
- Skin rashes
- Birth defects
- Problems with the nervous system
The Dirty Dozen™ is a yearly list of the 12 fruits and vegetables that have tested with the highest levels of pesticides. Unfortunately strawberries show up on this list almost every year.
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The environment also suffers from pesticide use.
Chemicals harm the soil where strawberries are grown, then travel through the ecosystem harming nearby wildlife and insects in the area. Pesticides travel farther downstream to our rivers, streams, and oceans, where they harm marine life.
Did you know that farmers actually use poisonous gases to sterilize their fields before planting. These fumigants are toxic and are used to purposefully kill any living thing on the field. After spraying the fields are covered with tarps to keep the gases in. Of course any farmers and neighboring communities are in danger of negative health impacts of escaping gasses.
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The Impact of Pesticides on Farm Workers
Lets face it. Farmers apply pesticides therefore they are exposed and are at greater risk for health problems.
Organic farms and their workers use farming techniques which don’t rely on synthetic pesticides. Examples include introducing beneficial insects and rotating crops
Choosing organic strawberries helps to support safer and healthier working conditions for farm workers.
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Why Washing Strawberries is Not Enough
It’s tempting to think that simply washing strawberries with water will remove any pesticides but unfortunately that’s not usually the case. When sprayed the pesticides get absorbed into the fruit through the skin or from the soil they grow in, making them very difficult to remove.
There are a few things you can do to reduce pesticide residue on strawberries
- Soaking them in a solution of water and apple cider vinegar for about 15 minutes before rinsing them with fresh water. This can help to remove whats on the surface, but it will not remove anything that has been absorbed into the fruit.
- Buy organic strawberries.
Organic strawberries may cost more than conventional, but there are ways to save money.
First consider only buying strawberries in season. We are designed to eat within natures seasons like our ancestors who did not have 24/7 access to a store.
Local grown strawberries don’t need to be transported thousands of miles, therefore they will be fresher, more flavorful. In addition you will be supporting your local farmers.
Growing Organic Strawberries in Your Backyard
One great way to enjoy organic strawberries is by growing them in your backyard. Not only does this allow you to control the quality of the fruit you eat, but it’s also a fun and rewarding activity to do with your family.
Strawberry Growing Tips
|Choose the right spot||Strawberries require full sun to grow, so make sure to choose a spot in your backyard that gets at least 6 hours of direct sun per day|
|Prepare the soil||Strawberries need well-draining soil that is high in organic matter. Mix compost and aged manure into the soil to provide the necessary nutrients|
|Plant the strawberries||Plant the strawberries in early spring or fall, and space them about 12-18 inches apart. Make sure to plant them at soil level or slightly above it.|
|Water the strawberries||Water strawberries regularly, making sure not to over-water them, as this can cause the fruit to rot. A drip irrigation system can help avoid water logging the soil.|
|Use natural pest control||Use natural pest control methods, such as row covers or companion planting, to avoid using synthetic pesticides.|
With a little bit of effort, you can grow organic strawberries in your backyard. You can rest assured that your berries are free from harmful pesticides and there will be plenty of strawberries for jams, cakes, salads, smoothies, and more. Don’t forget to share the joy of growing strawberries with your friends and family!
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Local Pick Your Own Strawberry Farms
Another way to enjoy organic strawberries is by picking them yourself at local pick-your-own strawberry farms. You will be able to enjoy fresh ripe strawberries without the harmful pesticide residue. In addition you help support local farmers.
Tips for finding and visiting local pick-your-own strawberry farms
|Look for local farms||Use search engines, social media, and resources such as LocalHarvest.org to find local farms that offer pick-your-own strawberries|
|Check the season||Strawberry season varies depending on where you live, so make sure to check with the farm about their harvesting dates and hours|
|Prepare for the visit||Wear comfortable shoes and clothing that you don’t mind getting dirty. Bring a hat, sunscreen, and a water bottle for hydration.|
|Follow farm rules||Follow any rules or regulations set by the farm, such as no pets or smoking. Respect the fields and other visitors, and only pick the amount of strawberries you need|
|Clean and store the strawberries||After picking, make sure to clean and store the strawberries properly. Eat them within a few days for the best flavor and nutrition|
Visiting pick-your-own strawberry farms is a wonderful way to enjoy the benefits of organic pesticide free strawberries while supporting local farmers. Go gather your family and friends and enjoy a fun-filled day of strawberry picking!
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FAQs About Strawberries and Pesticides
Do Strawberries Absorb Pesticides?
Yes, strawberries can absorb pesticides through their skin and from the soil they grow in. This can make it difficult to remove all of the pesticide residue, even after washing or even soaking in a vinegar solution.
Are Driscoll’s strawberries sprayed with pesticides?
Yes, Driscoll’s strawberries are conventionally grown and are often sprayed with pesticides. However, they also offer an organic line of strawberries that are grown without pesticides.
My experience is that when buying out of season even their organic strawberries can’t compare in flavor and texture to in season strawberries we buy in the spring and early summer months.
Are Organic Strawberries Free of Pesticides?
While organic strawberries are grown without synthetic pesticides, they may still contain some level of pesticide residue. However, organic farmers use only natural, non-toxic pesticides that do not have the same harmful effects as synthetic pesticides.
Does washing strawberries remove pesticides?
Soaking strawberries in a solution of water and apple cider vinegar for about 15 minutes can help to remove some of the surface-level residue from the fruit. However, this method is not foolproof and cannot remove all of the pesticide residues.
Are Strawberries Heavily Sprayed?
Yes, conventionally grown strawberries are often heavily sprayed with pesticides due to their susceptibility to pests and diseases. This is why they often appear on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list.
Are Your Strawberries Bland? Pesticides Could Be To Blame.
In some cases, conventional farming practices put profit over taste. In other words conventional farming may focus on increasing yield at the expense of flavor. The heavy use of pesticides and nitrogenous fertilizers can “blunt” the flavor of strawberries.
In comparison when grown organically strawberries tend towards a more robust taste and smell.
Strawberries are a delicious fruit loved by many. However, it’s important to be aware of the potential health risks associated with conventionally grown strawberries and pesticides.
Organic strawberries may be more expensive, but buying strawberries in-season and locally has many benefits including taste, and less harm to both farm workers and the environment.
Remember, washing and soaking strawberries can reduce pesticide residue, but the most effective way to avoid harmful chemicals is to choose organic strawberries which are not grown with harmful chemicals.
Never forget to make thoughtful choices when it comes to the food you eat. Choose organic strawberries and enjoy the delicious and nutritious fruit without the risk of toxic pesticide exposure.