Due to peak consumer demand around Thanksgiving and Christmas, 75% of the crop grown is grown during the fall and winter, when rain and wind promote the growth of bacteria and fungal diseases. Because we eat the entire stalk, it must be sprayed repeatedly to ward off pests.
Sweet and succulent, peaches can be just as alluring to insects as to people. Farmers may spray peaches every week or two from bloom to harvest — and peach fuzz can trap pesticides.
Strawberries are not only sweet and juicy but also delicate and prone to disease, including fungal attacks that can turn them to mush during transit and storage. With apples and peaches, a lot of spraying is cosmetic to get blemish-free fruits. With berries, they’re just trying to get them across the finish line into the store before they go bad.
Apples are susceptible to more than 30 insects and at least 10 diseases. And fungicides and other chemicals are added after picking to prevent tiny blemishes that can accumulate during storage of up to 9 months.
Blueberries are new on the dirty dozen list — possibly because the USDA began testing them only 3 years ago, after large increases in production. The berries are targets for insects such as blueberry maggots and bagworms.
Nectarines differ from peaches only in the absence of fuzz— a trait that likely arose as a natural mutation of a peach tree — so it’s no wonder they’re susceptible to many of the same pests, including oriental fruit moths and peach twig borers. Thanks to their skin, they don’t retain as many pesticides as peaches. On the other hand, they are more vulnerable to rot and scarring.
7. Bell peppers
Unlike cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, sweet bell peppers (which are technically fruits) have no bitter compounds serve as built-in insect repellents. They even lack the fiery taste of their cousins, the chile peppers. And the creases at their crowns may provide nooks for pesticides to accumulate.
Spinach is a mere leaf that’s crunched by a variety of insects, including grasshoppers. Spinach tens to pull persistent DDT residues out of the soil and into the leaf. These chemicals remain in the earth for decades after they were banned.
The outer leaves are not removed before sale, so any amount of damage will make it unmarketable. Even natural enemies of the pests that feed on kale can be considered contaminants in harvested produce, so farmers spray for all bugs, including the “good” ones.
Because cherries are a naked fruit — without peel or protection — they’re vulnerable to pests such as the western cherry fruit fly. If just one of its maggots is found in a shipment, the entire load of fruit must dumped, according to quarantine regulations, so growers spray out of fear of losing their crops.
New to the list, America’s number one vegetable is spray 5 or more times throughout the growing season to protect against various pests — and to ensure a crop of uniform shape and size for fast-food outlets and potato chip producers. After harvesting, another round of spraying occurs in the packing shed to ward off mold and sprouting.
12. Imported grapes
During their long transit from the southern hemisphere, imported grapes are susceptible to Botrytis cinerea rot, which causes the fruits to split and leak. To prevent that, farmers spray aggressively with fungicides. (Domestic table grapes do not need the same spraying because most are grown in the dry desert climate of Southern California, where botrytis does not thrive.
Onions manufacture their own protective chemicals, a series of unpleasant-tasting sulfur compounds that discourage insect munching. Though farmers may spray early in the growing season, residues are removed when the dry outer layer of the bulb is shed during harvest.
Most of the pesticides that are used to treat avocados accumulate on the peel.
3. Sweet Corn
Corn is husked before eating, eliminating residues on the outside.
Most spraying is done early in the growing season, so minimal residues remain after harvest. Those that do are removed with the thick rind.
Mangoes are grown in Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America, where the dry climate discourages fungus and hand weeding is a common alternative to herbicides. In addition mangoes are peeled before eating.
6. Sweet peas
They are protected by their pods.
The spears spring up so fast, there’s little time for insects to attack
Lacewings and parasitic wasps help control the pests that like to feed on kiwis.
The plant is sprayed, but the outer leaves that absorb pesticides are discarded before sale.
The eggplant has a slick surface that shed chemicals easily
Though the melons are sprayed with insecticides, we don’t ingest them because the fruit is cut out of the thick rind before eating.
Has a thick protective rind that is not eaten.
Although farmers often use fungicides to control green mold, most of the residues remain on the peel.
14. Sweet potato
Has built-in defenses. If bitten, it oozes a milk-white sap that gums up insect mouthparts. Before they’re sold, sweet potatoes are cured at warm temperatures and high humidity. This causes the skin to thicken, providing protection against damage and disease.
15. Honeydew melon
Honeydew may be washed in diluted chlorine during packing in order to ward off rot-inducing microbes. But—need we say it again? — you discard the rind before eating!
JUST REMEMBER that whether you opt for conventional or organic, you’re better off eating more fruits and vegetables rather than less. And whatever produce you buy, wash or peel it before eating. (article source: prevention magazine)