Organic preferences

Here’s the thing about Food. Everything you eat is a choice you make. But there are multiple and frequently contradictory axis on which to make choices. How many pesticides are on my food? How much does it cost? How were the workers who harvested this treated? How much diesel fuel was expended to get the food to you? How does that food satiate your hunger? How many nutrients does it have? How gets the profit from the food you purchase?

There’s a lot going on, is what I’m saying. There’s not perfect choice that is the best answer for all questions. You make the decisions that work for you.

I’ve been taking advantage of the fact that it is summer here in Minnesota, and I live near a very nice co-op. Said co-op stocks a great deal of food that is either organically grown, locally cultivated, or both. In the various reading I’ve done about food, and fitness, and eating habits in the last few months there’s a lot of push for organic foods. So I’ve tried some, and here are my thoughts on what works or doesn’t work for me.

First off, it’s all bloody expensive. There is a lot of back and forth conversation in “healthy eating” circles about the cost of food. Some people argue that a secret tax on the poor is that healthy food is too expensive for working class budgets. (In the U.S., I’m discussing. I don’t know anything about the rest of the world’s food economies.) Others argue that this is not true, that anyone can eat healthy at any budget above the poverty line. A lot of this discussion hinges on what we’re counting as “eating healthy.” But everyone seems to agree that organic fruits and vegetables are, unless you are growing them in your yard, more expensive than other sorts.

So the conversation I’m having with myself is, which of these are enough better — for as-yet-specified values of better — that I want to pay the cost?

Tomatoes. Yes. Oh dear sweet crickets. Locally grown, organic tomatoes are nothing like the commercially grown and shipped things. I will happily pay more money for local, organic tomatoes.

Oranges. I do not like organic oranges. The ones I’ve tried have been woody and flavorless. This may well be because I live in MINNESOTA, not known for its lush orange groves.

Asparagus. On the other hand, organic asparagus, locally grown, is amazingly good. Sweet and tender and flavorful and I love it.

Onions, garlic, scallions, shallots. I don’t have strong opinions about these. The organic shallots were good, the onions I couldn’t tell at all. I grow scallions in the back yard. I eat too much garlic to really want to pay organic prices for it.

Stone fruits. I don’t like most stone fruits, except for cherries. But I tried a bunch of pluots and apricots to see if I liked organic more. Not really. But locally grown organic cherries are the BEST.

Apples. We grown a crapton of apples, here in Minnesota. In the fall and winter we have a lot of varietals to choose from. Organic matters a lot less when they are all local, fresh, and specialty.

Bell peppers. I can’t tell the difference between commercial and organic bell peppers. But I do like buying the weird little heirloom sweet peppers.

Cruciferous vegetables. Organic kale is AMAZING. Almost totally different from the commercial stuff. Broccoli and the rest are fine, but I don’t see too much difference between commercial and organic.

Cheese. Like the apple situation, I live in a place that is already brimming with local artisinal varieties of cheese. Some are organic, some are not, all are interesting and good.

Eggs. Organic, locally-sourced eggs are an entirely different thing from the commercial free-range organic eggs we already get. I might splurge from time to time to get the co-op’s eggs, though they are twice as expensive.

This isn’t meant to be a definitive or conclusive survey of organic foods. It’s where I’m at right now on the Food Choice and Industry situation. I expect my decisions will evolve through the year, as different things come into season.

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2 Responses

  1. I agree with your assessment. Some things are obviously much better, while others are not worth the extra money. Here’s my list:

    Eggs – these are so different as to be two different things. I get eggs from a coworker whose daughter raises chickens, probably as a 4H project. She charges $2/dozen. It’s a steal. I was happy paying $3/dozen from a different coworker. We eat a lot of eggs now because at this price I get a dozen a week.

    Bananas – taste is similar but organic/fair trade ones don’t go brown and mushy as fast.

    Onions – also do not go moldy as fast. This may speak to the housekeeping practices of the co-op compared to the big groceries.

    Carrots – organic carrots taste sweet and commercial carrots taste bitter to me.

    In the summer I get veggies from the CSA or the farmer’s markets. Fresh and local is good. Organic is secondary. I agree that brocolli is pretty similar from both sources. I find fruit to be highly variable at the grocery stores and consistently good at the co-op. I mostly buy it when it looks good at the grocery because of price.

  2. @Lynn This summer was the “let’s see if this vegetable thing is a phase or a lifestyle change”. Now that I’ve pretty firmly established that it’s a real change, next year is CSA time. We have a ton of them that drop off in my neighborhood. 🙂

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