The “clean 15”: Skip the organics? Yep… skip ‘em!

Last month I posted about the nasty “dirty dozen” – the 12 produce items that are most likely to hang onto pesticides after harvest.  (yea. ewww… dirty produce with chemicals.)  Those are the ones you WANT to buy organic.

Well, I had some readers ask me about the other side of the story. Are there items that we DON’T need to buy organic?  Well, you bet there are!  For some produce there isn’t an advantage to using pesticides because the bugs and critters don’t like them or tough outer skins make them too much of a challenge.  Even when not organically grown, they consistently test negative for pesticides, year after year.

So, with the holidays around the corner, maybe you’ll be entertaining, taking a potluck dish somewhere or you’re just keeping an eye on your grocery store budget (aren’t we all!).  So let me not deprive you of some more great info and give you the low-down on the ones that To Buy or Not To Buy Organics dubs its “clean fifteen” (the “DON’T” bother buying these organics list):

–    Asparagus         –    Mango
–    Avocados          –    Onions
–    Bananas            –    Papaya
–    Blueberries         –    Pineapple
–    Broccoli             –    Shelling peas
–    Cabbage            –    Sweet corn
–    Garlic                –    Watermelon
–    Kiwi

Next time you’re at the grocery store (and many of us will be, since we don’t have access to locally grown produce this time of year!) put your cart in high gear and drive right out of the organics section for this produce…

And feel grateful for the “picky”, “lazy” bugs that just have no interest in bugging some of our favorite produce.

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13 thoughts on “The “clean 15”: Skip the organics? Yep… skip ‘em!

  1. This is so interesting. I have always tried to buy organic and never really realized that there may be products that always test negative for pesticides, like watermelon! I actually first became aware of ways to reduce pesticides in our food when I heard about Village Volunteers. They are a sustainable agriculture group that is supported by the Everywun Campaign. You should check them out- it is interesting to learn how some rural families take different steps towards pesticide free foods and achieve the same outcome. You can support them and get to their website from

  2. That is a relief. I have to tell you – finding organic grapes is tough and since my kids adore grapes, the 1 container my supermarket has that is organic is teeny! I’ve been feeling guilty about not getting it! Thank you for posting this!

    OneGreenMommys last blog post..Princesses Can Be Green Too!

  3. Hi, just discovered your blog through Twitter. It’s always great to connect with other Green Moms. Just wondering about your source for these 15, though. I really disagree about the corn. The vast majority of the conventional corn crop in the US is genetically modified -that’s the main reason I buy organic corn.

    How did you come up with this list?

    Lynn from Organicmania.coms last blog post..Organic and Green Savings: In-Store Expired Coupons?

  4. Adena – you’re welcome!

    Susie – Hope this helped and thanks for the resource too.. I’ll check it out!

    OneGreenMommy – Ugh-oh… I think you misunderstood though… grapes are on the “dirty dozen” list… the ones you’re supposed to buy organic… now the guilt is coming back, right? 🙂

    Lynn – glad you came by for a visit! This list came from the book, To Buy or Not To Buy Organics, as mentioned in the post. I would love to hear more about corn though if your facts disagree. Please share!

  5. FYI readers: This is an excerpt from an article I read… it appears the categorization of high- and low-pesticide residue levels was based on 43,000 tests…

    “…You might also keep the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” in mind when purchasing and preparing produce. After 43,000 tests run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the FDA, these are the 12 fruits and vegetables that tested highest in levels of pesticides: peaches, strawberries, apples, spinach, nectarines, celery, pears, cherries, potatoes, sweet bell peppers, lettuce, and imported grapes.

    The foods that tested lowest in pesticide residues: onions, avocados, frozen corn, pineapples, mangoes, asparagus, frozen peas, kiwi, bananas, cabbage, broccoli, and papayas.”

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  7. I do love knowing that there are some foods that won’t harm me directly with pesticides, no matter where or how I eat them. But you know – growing them with pesticides still means that the toxins run off into the water and the earth, hurting the farmworkers and the surrounding communities, even if they don’t travel to us consumers on the food itself.

    There’s a really good website run by the Pesticide Action Network called What’s on My Food ( that shows which pesticides are found on different foods (blueberries, etc.) and how often they’re found.

    My understanding of the “clean 15” and “dirty dozen” lists is that the clean ones aren’t necessarily CLEAN, they’re just the CLEANEST in terms of pesticide residue. I only looked up corn so far but that seems to be the case with corn at least; the main pesticide problem on it seems to be that there are two pesticides that are neurotoxins which are each found on about 30% of corn tested. Doesn’t say how much corn has either one (60%? Still 30%? Something in between?). Maybe I’ll research each of the “clean 15” and blog how clean they really are! Here’s hoping that garlic, at least, is super-clean 🙂

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  10. I would be very hesitant to add sweet corn to the list of ‘clean’. If it is conventional, it is possibly GMO. Sweet corn that is not sprayed with anything, has probably been modified to create its own Bt. (a bacteria that kills the caterpillars that eat holes through the corn.)

  11. Nicole – as I mentioned in the comments above, this is the list from EWG (Environmental Working Group) and only addresses pesticide. Sadly, genetically modified food is another topic all together…

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