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This list is essentially the bottom half of the Environmental Working Group’s pesticide list, which means that the last item on the list — avocadoes — is, when grown conventionally, the cleanest of the bunch for pesticide residues.
Keep in mind two rules of non-organic thumb: Plants in the allium family have natural pesticides in them, so you can generally buy them non-organic. And tropical products (fruit, nuts) are also often grown without chemicals.
The same rule applies to lemons as to oranges, above: Buy organic if you’re going to be using the peel, but non-organic if you’re just using the juice.
Like other melons, the honeydew’s thick skin is a barrier against most pesticides.
Grapefruit has the lowest detectable residues of any citrus fruit. Still, if you want to use the peel, buy organic.
If you’re going to eat that pumpkin or butternut squash, buy organic. But if you’re just going to use it as decoration or carve it for Halloween, non-organic is fine.
As with berries, good tomatoes are so fragile that buying them locally is the most important consideration. They’ll be fresher and tastier, too.
Unlike ordinary potatoes, pesticides aren’t used much on sweet potatoes — which makes for a relatively chemical-free crop.
Same rule as for sweet potatoes, above: Chemicals just don’t do well on watermelon crop. Buy local melons for the best taste.
Unlike strawberries and raspberries, blueberries are low in pesticide residues. (The same is true for blackberries.) Buy local for the best flavor.
As Burke writes, “Thick-skinned tropical fruits have little or no pesticide residue after harvest.” So there you go.
Eggplant crops are sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, but they seldom contain residues.
Chemicals don’t work well on broccoli, so they’re not used very much. Lucky you.
With one major exception — Napa cabbage — pesticides are seldom used on cabbage. But if you like Napa, buy it organic.
The banana’s thick skin helps keep pesticides out.
They may have thin skins, but kiwis have very few pesticide residues.
Bugs don’t like asparagus, so farmers hardly ever use pesticides on the crop.
As with eggplant, broccoli, and cabbage, peas (fresh or frozen) consistently test low for pesticide residues.
Like the other tropical fruits on this list, mangoes have a thick-enough skin to keep pesticides out.
Pineapples are as tough as they look — no chemicals here.
Both fresh and frozen sweet corn, despite the use of herbicides and pesticides, retain little residue. Buy local and eat as soon as possible for the best taste.
Yet another one of those thick-skinned tropical fruits. Eat away.
Culinate’s features address the practical challenges and joys of food.
Want more? Comb the archives.
An American native
A father’s legacy
The vegetarian-cooking pioneer
Cracking a Filipino favorite