Those pesky pesticides

Having written, the other day, about growing your own food to avoid unwanted chemicals, I’ve been doing a little more thinking. A friend asked me whether washing vegetables in dilute vinegar would help reduce pesticide residues more than washing with water alone. My initial thought was that, even if this did work, it would only help with surface residues, not pesticides that the plant had absorbed. I did do a bit of reading around and I didn’t find an answer to the original question but I did come across an interesting piece from Cornell University, entitled Can you wash pesticides off your fruits and vegetables? They note that various heat treatment (e.g. pasteurisation, canning and frying) have been found to reduce pesticides, as have milling, brewing, baking, malting and wine-making, but that drying and dehydrating can increase pesticide levels. Their conclusion:

Washing your produce certainly removes pesticide residue from the outside, but there’s no clear data showing whether it reduces pesticide exposure compared to consuming organic fruits and vegetables.

So, it does seem that the safest option is to grow or buy fruit and vegetables that have not been exposed to pesticides in the first place. At this point, it’s worth noting that some pesticides are acceptable in organic systems, so buying something that is labelled ‘organic’ does not necessarily mean that it is pesticide-free.

With home-grown produce, you need not worry about pesticides if you know you have not applied any. This means that when it comes to preparation, cooking and storage, you can relax and do what you like.

Since my (pretty-much chemical-free) garden is now at the beginning of its most productive period, I’ve already started preserving some of the bounty. I’ve made mint sauce, I’ve frozen some of the raspberries I’ve picked and I have some oregano hanging up to dry in the limery. There’s a small bowl of tomatoes in the fridge ready for conversion into passata, which I freeze if it’s only a small quantity or bottle if I have large amounts.

I love all the potential at this time of year. I know that by the end of summer I will be sick of courgettes, but now as I watch the first fruits swell, I can hardly wait for my first harvest. How about you? Is there something you love to grow and eat?


2017 Courgette #1

What’s up, dock?

I am trying to establish a useful ground flora in the fruit cage, including aromatic herbs and flowers that attract pollinators. I have several mints, lemon balm, comfrey, strawberries (supposedly a good weed-suppressor), thyme, rosemary, chives and oregano.

Unfortunately, I also have ryegrass, nettles and docks… I don’t mind the first of these too much , but I could do without the other two. I try to garden without chemicals, so wouldn’t normally use any weedkiller and, anyway, it’s not an option in the fruit cage. Whilst nettles are good for a range of insects, they are no good for my bare arms and legs, so I am cutting these back regularly and putting the wilted tops on the compost heap since they are a good compost activator.

Chickens find freshly-cut docks highly entertaining.

Chickens find freshly-cut docks highly entertaining*.

The trouble with docks is that they are vigorous and seed very freely. If you dig them up, it’s likely that you will leave pieces of root in the ground, from which they will resprout. In addition, if you dig them up, you leave a bare patch of soil that is an ideal seed bed for new docks, or other unwanted species. I am, therefore, trying to eradicate the docks slowly. This year, I let them grow until they produced flowers and thus used up lots of resources, then yesterday I cut them back to the ground. I removed all the cuttings from the ground and spread them out on the concrete path for the chickens to enjoy.

In theory, now the hens have lost interest, I could now compost this material, but I’m cautious in case any of the seeds have already formed – I don’t want to be propagating even more docks. So, I’m going to dry out the material and them we will use it as fuel for our Kelly kettle… a good use of a ‘waste’ product from the garden.


* Please note, Perdy has not lost her head in the dock-related excitement, she’s just looking over her shoulder.

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