Navigating the Organic Produce AisleChoosing organic can minimize your exposure to pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals used in traditional farming. Plus, researchers at the University of California at Davis found that, on average, organic produce contains more vitamin C, iron, and magnesium compared to traditionally grown foods. While the scientific research is still developing, the organic grocery aisle is expanding.
If you're beginning to shop organic, the Environmental Working Group suggests starting with the following 14 fruits and vegetables that are most commonly treated with high concentrations of pesticides.
To get your taste buds motivated, we've paired each food with a recipe to maximize its flavor.
- James Carrier
ApplesTart, fresh apples work best in our Apple Galette recipe. Research from the Environmental Working Group shows that 98 percent of conventional apples had pesticides, so buy organic tart apples at the supermarket or visit a local orchard. You can find a listing of orchards by location at AllAboutApples.com.
Watch our video on peeling, coring, and chopping apples.
Recipe: Apple Galette
- James Carrier
CeleryCelery is listed at the No. 2 produce item to buy organic. You'll need a bunch of celery that weighs about 1 3/4 pounds for this chilled salad recipe. Prepare the dates, cheese, and celery up to 4 hours ahead and assemble the salad just before serving, adding parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar.
Recipe: Date and Celery Salad
- Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner; Styling: Lydia DeGaris-Pursell
Sweet Bell PeppersSautéed sweet bell peppers and balsamic vinegar add a delicious sweetness to a chicken sandwich. Top with melted cheese, and you have a satisfying warm meal. Buy a variety of red, green, yellow, and orange organic bell peppers at your local farmers market for a colorful addition to sandwiches, salads, and sides.
Learn how bell peppers are a superfood.
PeachesPeaches rank No. 4 on the list of produce most susceptible to pesticides thanks to their soft skin. Regardless of organic or conventional, make sure to wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly with clean water and if desired, serve peeled. Try the fresh stone fruit in this intriguing savory-sweet appetizer.
- Photo: Randy Mayor; Styling: Jan Gautro
StrawberriesBuy organic strawberries and roast the berries with vanilla, butter, and sugar to tenderize and sweeten them. Then borrow a technique from the savory side of the kitchen by simmering the pan juices with wine and vinegar. The result is fragrant, fruity, rich, and light all at once.
Recipe: Vanilla-Roasted Strawberries
- Randy Mayor
NectarinesYou'll be amazed at how tasty these simple snacks are. Organic peaches or plums also work well in place of the nectarines. You can assemble the bundles up to an hour in advance. Just cover them with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Photo: John O'Hagan; Styling: Ashley Andrews Jackson
Grapes (imported)Freeze a bunch of organic grapes for about 4 hours for a frosting addition to a pitcher of white grape juice lemonade. The frozen grapes taste great and also help keep the lemonade cold.
Recipe: Sparkling Grape Juice-Lemonade
- Photo: Iain Bagwell; Styling: Annette Joseph
SpinachAdd fresh organic spinach to traditional Waldorf salad ingredients—apple, raisins, and nuts—and replace the high-fat mayonnaise dressing with a lower-fat vinaigrette.
Recipe: Waldorf Spinach Salad
- Photo: Leigh Beisch; Styling: Merilee Bordin
LettuceYou can use any tender, sweet organic lettuce in place of butterhead in this easy salad featuring asparagus, tiny mozzarella balls, and pine nuts.
- Photo: Rick Lew; Styling: Sara Foster
CucumbersInstead of peeling the cucumbers for this recipe, you just score the cucumbers and cut them into rounds, making this 5-ingredient salad super easy to prepare. In the most recent research from the Environmental Working Group, conventional celery tested positive for 57 different pesticides.
Recipe: Cucumbers and Onions
- Becky Luigart-Stayner
Blueberries (domestic)This crisp is simple enough for a weeknight treat and elegant enough to serve your dinner guests. Use organic blueberries, and spread the blueberry and sugar mixture into a baking dish. Sprinkle with streusel topping, and bake until bubbly. Serve with a scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt for a little sweetness.
See why bluberries are a superfood.
Recipe: Blueberry Crisp à la Mode
- James Carrier
PotatoesUse this recipe's basic cooking technique to discover what a treat carefully cooked organic potatoes are in their skins with butter and parsley. In addition to being a tried-and-true side dish, these potatoes are great for making potato salad because the potatoes have not absorbed much water.
Recipe: Slow-cooked Potatoes
- Photo: William Dickey; Styling: Rose Nguyen
Green BeansDress up humble garden-fresh green beans with a little garlic, butter, salt, pepper, and olive oil for a simple side dish.
Recipe: Garlic Green Beans
- Photo: Jonny Valiant; Styling: Deborah Williams
Kale/GreensRoasting organic kale is amazing—the leaves turn from a dusty dark green to dark emerald with brown-tinged curly edges that crunch.
Recipe: Garlic-Roasted Kale
If you're starting to shop organic, begin with these 14 fruits and vegetables to minimize exposure to pesticides.