Sustainable seasons: The best time of year to buy pesticide-free food

When you do your weekly shop, how often do you think about where the products you’re buying come from and how they’ve been grown? The food found in our local supermarkets often gets picked early and travels miles to reach our baskets.

It’s not always easy to eat ethically and sustainably because there’s a lack of information about where and when to buy decent, fresh food.

Why are pesticides used?

Pesticides are used in agriculture to control weeds, insect infestation and potential disease carriers. It’s something we’re taught briefly at school, but tend to forget about later in life.

As BBC Bitesize explains, some of the pesticide chemicals remain on the surface of crops – fruit, for example. Others are absorbed by the plant and can be present in the final crop.

Although there are strict laws that determine how much of these chemical residues are permitted in foods, pesticides can have damaging consequences. Recently, the long-term decline of wild bees in the UK has been linked to the use of some chemicals. 

How do I get hold of pesticide-free foods?

To help people shop smarter, The Environmental Working group released a list called the ‘clean fifteen’. It names the least pesticide-ridden fruit and vegetables. So when you can’t buy organic, or head to a local farmers market (which isn’t always possible for everyone), you can buy the following safe in the knowledge they have the least pesticides on them:

  • Avocados
  • Sweetcorn
  • Pineapples
  • Cabbage
  • Frozen peas
  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Papayas
  • Kiwis
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet potatoes

In addition, they offered up a list of the fruit and veg found to have the most pesticides on them known as ‘the dirty dozen’:

  • Apples
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Spinach
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Imported nectarines
  • Cucumbers
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Imported snap peas
  • Potatoes

How to get hold of pesticide-free fruit and vegetable all year

If you want to go the extra mile, you could try and grow your own pesticide-free fruit and vegetables. According to Vouchercloud, it’s not only a lot easier than you’d expect, and it can be extremely rewarding, economical and reduces your carbon footprint. They’ve got some top tips for starting to grow your own produce:

  • Whether you’ve got a big or small patch, it is best to start small with your initial crop
  • Choose vegetables that you and your family will enjoy – no point growing a load of courgettes if no one is going to eat them
  • Choose vegetables such as lettuce and beans that will keep producing more over a long harvest period – will save you a lot in the long run
  • Once you know what you want to plant, you can determine how much space you will need – if your garden is small you can plant in containers and pots, or even grow bags

How do you keep up an ethical and sustainable diet? Share your tips with us. Join us in a cooking revolution (blog)