The Clean Fifteen

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Kim Barniouin shares with Natural Solutions the top 15 produce, produced conventionally, that are the safest to eat (ie. their use of pesticides is much lower than theDirty Dozen). For more information, check out her book Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Cookbookone ofNatural Solutions’ top cookbooks of 2010 picks.

Asparagus: This veggie faces fewer threats from unwanted pests, thus requiring less pesticide use.

How to Pick a Good One: Choose bright green or purplish bunches with tightly bundled tips that aren’t flowering. For even cooking, buy bunches that are fairly uniform in size and thickness.

Storage/Instructions: Store in the refrigerator.

Avocados: The thick shell protects the fruit from pesticide buildup.

How to Pick a Good One: The best avocados are slightly tender but won’t dent or cave in to the touch. Look for bumpy, dark green to almost black skins.

Storage/Instructions: Store in the refrigerator. If you can find only unripe avocado, store in a paper bag at room temperature until it ripens.

Broccoli: Broccoli crops have less trouble with pest threats, so they call for less pesticide use.

How to Pick a Good One: Choose broccoli that is deep green with a grayish-purple tint on the stems. Feel for firm stalks with no wilted leaves or rubbery consistency.

Storage/Instructions: Store in the refrigerator.

Cabbage: Like broccoli and asparagus, cabbage doesn’t need lots of pesticides.

How to Pick a Good One: You want the outer shell to be tight, crisp, shiny, and heavy. If the leaves are yellowing, leave it for the next guy. As far as varieties, bok choy should have deep green leaves with crisp, white stems; savory cabbage (the exception to the rule) will form a looser head with wrinkled leaves.

Storage/Instructions: Store in the refrigerator.

Kiwi: This fruit’s fuzzy skin acts as a barrier to harmful pesticides and chemicals.

How to Pick a Good One: Choose kiwi that are plump and can take a gradual squeeze. Refrain from buying ones that are too soft, moist on the skin, or show any signs of bruising.

Storage/Instructions: Store in the refrigerator. If you can find only unripe kiwi fruits, store them in a paper bag on the counter at room temperature until they feel ripe.

Mangoes: Their thick skin protects them from the outside world, even those pesky pesticides.

How to Pick a Good One: Mangoes should be slightly firm but yield to a gentle squeeze. For those with a sweet tooth, the softer varieties are sweeter, but don’t go too soft, as this often indicates a rotten one. Look for mangoes bright in color, whether that is red, yellow, or orange.

Storage/Instructions: Store in the refrigerator. If you can find only unripe mangoes, store them in a paper bag on the kitchen counter at room temperature until they feel ripe.

Onions: This tearjerker doesn’t attract many pests, which means less pesticide use.

How to Pick a Good One: Look for dry, sheer skins and flesh that is full and firm, primarily at the stem end. Avoid any discoloration or soft spots. Pick fresh onions one by one. Refrain from buying by the bag.

Storage/Instructions: Store at room temperature.

Papaya: Pesticide residue will stick to the outer skin, which preserves the flesh inside.

How to Pick a Good One: If you plan to serve papaya in the next day or two, choose one with golden color that is soft to the touch, not bruised or shriveled. If you wish to eat it later in the week, pick one intermediate in color, between green and golden.

Storage/Instructions: Store in the refrigerator. If you can find only unripe papaya, store in a paper bag on the kitchen counter at room temperature until they feel ripe.

Pineapple: Its rough, spiny rind shields the fruit from pests, pesticide residue, and unwanted creatures.

How to Pick a Good One: Pull on the leaves at the top to find out if a pineapple is ripe. If a nice little tug rips out a leaf, then you have a ripe pineapple. The rind is so thick that typically bruising on the outside won’t reflect on the inside.

Storage/Instructions: Store in the refrigerator. If you plan to eat it in a few days, countertop storage is fine.

Sweet (Shelling) Peas: According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), sweet peas are the least likely vegetable to have pesticide residue.

How to Pick a Good One: Pea pods should be bright green in color with no yellowing; a bit leathery but firm. You should be able to feel the beans through the pod.

Storage/Instructions: Store at cool temperatures. Plan on picking up a pound for every cup of peas you want.

Sweet Corn: Corn may require some fertilizer to grow, but it’s not likely to end up in the kernels.

How to Pick a Good One: Look for bright green husks that tightly hug around the ear. Pull back the husk to ensure kernels are small, shiny, and firm.

Storage/Instructions: Store at room temperature and do not refrigerate. Corn is best served a few days within purchase.

Watermelon: Watermelon is a tough cookie. With rind like this, not many chemicals can fight their way into its juicy, red flesh. Is it summertime yet?

How to Pick a Good One: Go ahead, give it a firm squeeze. Look for a firm rind with deeper green, even pigment. Avoid bruising or soft spots.

Storage/Instructions: Store in the refrigerator.

Tomatoes: Tomatoes found themselves on the Dirty Dozen list in 2008, but they’re in the clear now. The EPA recently identified the tomato as one of the cleanest vegetables.

How to Pick a Good One: Look for glossy, firm skin without signs of bruising. The brighter the color, the riper the tomato. Look for deep, even color and avoid the pale, scrawny ones.

Storage/Instructions: Store at room temperature.

Eggplant: Their thick skins call for less pesticide use.

How to Pick a Good One: Skin should appear medium in color, shiny, and not shriveled or wrinkled. When squeezed, a good eggplant should offer some cushion but not be too firm. Typically, bruising on the outside does not indicate any damage to the actual flesh, but it’s always best to choose an eggplant with no baggage.

Storage/Instructions: Store on the kitchen counter and do not refrigerate.

Sweet Potato: Sweet potatoes are not huge pest targets, and therefore are unlikely to be contaminated with a slew of pesticides.

How to Pick a Good One: Choose a sweet potato without any soft areas and avoid those with sprouts, eyes, slits, or a green pigment. For best results when cooking, but potatoes that are fairly uniform in size and thickness.

Storage/Instructions: Store at room temperature and do not refrigerate.

Visit www.ewg.org for updates or additions to the list of the Clean Fifteen.