When I speak about The dirty dozen, I am not referring to mafia men. In the organic food world, the dirty dozen refers to those fruits and vegetables you unequivocally should buy organically. The dirty dozen derive their distinguished title, because they are reportedly the most highly sheathed in pesticides and most vulnerable to bacterial and pest infestation. Bell peppers, celery, kale, potatoes, spinach, apples, blueberries, cherries, imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, and strawberries round out the dirty dozen.

To begin, bell peppers earned “dirty” status, because they lack the internal bitter compounds to repel insects. Anatomically, bell peppers easily accumulate pesticides in the nooks of their crowns. Meanwhile, celery falls prey to bacterial and fungal diseases due to increased growing during prominent rain and windy seasons. To ward off these infestations, farmers douse the entire stalks with pesticides. Like celery, kale is heavily sprayed for all bugs as a means to preserve the entire amalgamation of leaves and increase salability. Potatoes experience amplified dousing of pesticides during the growing season  to protect the crop from pests and ensure that  size and shape meet the abundant demand. Last on the list of vegetables is spinach. With its tender leaves, it is a tasty morsel for a number of insects and has left its deleterious DDT effects in the earth’s soil decades beyond the pesticide ban.

Jumping over to fruits, apples slide onto the “dirty” list for their propensity to attract at least 10 diseases and over 30 types of insects. Fungicides used to prevent these attacks are also used to prevent blemishes from the storage of apples. Maggots and bagworms love to gobble the tender flesh of sweet blue berries, which have become popular in recent years as one of the super foods for optimal health. As a result of increased popularity, they have blared the ecological radars for increased pesticide use. Cherries in their vulnerable nudity, lack a protective coating that wards off pesky insects. Strict regulations of cherries results in an over spraying of the crop to ensure they are devoid of any creepy crawlies. Imported grapes travel thousands of miles from the dank southern hemisphere where they develop Botrytis Cinera rot that splits their flesh. Fungicides thwart this tendency prevalent only from these grapes. Nectarines and peaches are both susceptible to oriental fruit moths and peach twig borers; however, nectarines waxy skin prevents them from the same retention of pesticides. At the same time, nectarines do not have the protective fuzz of the peach and have increased susceptibility of rot and scarring. Lastly, strawberries turn to mush when charmed by fungi and experience  pesticide exposure to keep them plump for the market.

When shopping for your organic fruits and vegetables, be sure to plunk the dirty dozen at the top of the list. These are the dozen that you just cannot compromise in quality, if you are choosing the health derived from an organic lifestyle.