Cleaner Living: A Better Berry

My children LOVE berries.  Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and especially strawberries!  I could give them each a pint and they would praise me for being the best mom in the world!  Other than the big bellyache they would get from eating this much deliciousness, there is another downside to eating all of these berries.


According to the EWG’s Dirty Dozen, strawberries comes in at #3 and blueberries make it to #10 of the dirtiest produce.

With strawberries and other summer fruits being in such high demand (even in the off-seasons) growers feel the pressure to churn out more fruit and lose fewer profits.  Therefore they utilize pesticides to ensure as little crop death as possible, and many consumers enjoying their Strawberry Shortcake in December fail to recognize the harm they may be ingesting.

Thankfully, some of the most toxic of the pesticides used on our fruits and veggies are being phased out (methyl bromide) or eliminated from use completely (methyl bromides replacement, methyl iodide), but there are still many pesticides being used to control crops and boost profits.  According to tests done in 2008, strawberries were found to have 54 pesticide residues on them, while blueberries had 52!

Now, like I have said in the past, I try to keep my fear of chemicals at an acceptable crazy-lady-swatting-food-out-of-your-hand level.  My kids eat strawberry/berry products when it is not in my control to offer alternatives, like at school or relative’s houses (though I am training them well- the family members and my kids).  But, the berries that make their way into my house are carefully chosen to be as free of pesticides and chemicals as possible.


So what can you do:

– It is not always in the budget to buy organic, but if you can swing only a few things, strawberries and blueberries should be on that list.  Many of the tests for pesticide residue found 0% in organic versions.

– Buy local and ask questions at the farm stand.  Ask if they use any spray, pesticides, herbicides, etc.  Remember that even if they just spray the soil and not the fruit the pesticides are actually making their way into the fruit while growing.  Good responsible growers will tell you the truth.  If they hem and haw or don’t seem to know what you are asking, move on.

– Choose pick-your-own farms that are willing to discuss with you what their growing practices are.   Many growers are not seeking Organic status for many reasons (cost being one of them), however they utilize organic or natural growing processes.  You can find lists of pick-your-own places in your area at this website.

– Grow your own!  You can easily find plants at a nursery or grow your own from seeds with your kids.  Not a lot of space or living in an apartment? Grab one of these  planters and have at it!  Your kids will think it is pretty cool that they can pick their own berries in the back yard or on the deck, and they learn a little science lesson in the process.

– Don’t freak out if Grandma is serving berry cobbler (with ice cream!) and she has no clue where they came from… balance the good with the bad.  I’m pretty sure the berry cobbler will taste fantastic!

Come back next week when I share my tips for washing your berries to make them last TWICE as long (if your kids will let them go that long)!


7 thoughts on “Cleaner Living: A Better Berry

  1. This is such an important topic! Dena, thanks for spreading the word about this. Since we can’t all afford to eat 100% organic, it makes tons of sense to prioritize based on the level of contamination. Unfortunately most of my favorite foods are on that dirty dozen list…. I can’t garden right now, but often find better deals at farmer’s markets, and I look for the certified organic growers. Local *and* organic – win!

  2. I LOVE this post. And I so want to grow strawberries and blueberries in our yard (Olivia is a fruititarian and yes, I made that up. I think.), but I wonder about deer. They are PLENTIFUL here. Maybe netting or something?

  3. Great information.
    Blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries are three easy berries people can grow in their yard with little to no pesticides and chemicals and very little maintaince. I grew up with blueberry and raspberry bushes in my yard and the only maintaince we had to do was trim them back each spring and net them in the summer so the birds didn’t eat them all before we did. With the blueberries we would get enough to enjoy for the summer and freeze the rest for the winter. My husband and I have both in our yard and started strawberries last summer. For the strawberries we got a raised flower box and planted them in there and got a few berries last year but this year they came back bigger and better than ever. My daughter loves going up and picking them each day. Again we use no pesticides and chemicals on the strawberries and just trim back any dead stuff.
    I have to say, the only fruit we grow that we need to spray for bugs (we use an all organic stuff for that) is our grape crop. We have about ½ dozen vines we have put in and besides trimming and tying them up throughout the summer, we spray now and then with an all organic pesticides. But each fall we get a large harvest of red grapes that I use to make our own jelly for the year.

  4. Great post Dena!!This is such important info. I can’t wait to read about how to make them last twice as long!

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