An apple a day keeps the doctor away. As a family owned business, Mopfrog of Danbury heard that phrase from their parents and grandparents as a way to encourage choosing what was once one of the healthiest snacks available – a plump, shiny apple. Now, however, apples are at the top of a frighteningly different list.
This other list is known as the Dirty Dozen, an annual list of fruits and vegetables that contain the highest levels of pesticides, as compiled by one of the leading environment advocacy groups, The Environment Working Group (EWG). In addition to apples, peaches and nectarines, common berries, such as strawberries and vegetables such as celery, kale and cherry tomatoes also make the list.
If you are wondering how apples made the leap from healthy and wholesome to pesticide-laden, much of it has to do with the procedures used by non-organic apple producers to maximize the harvest and keep their product attractive and market-worthy both before and after it is grown. In addition to pesticides used to prevent insect infestation in the orchards while the fruit is growing, apple producers and packers commonly apply diphenylamine (DPA) to the apples after harvest to prevent discolorations from occurring during cold storage that would make the apples unsuitable for market.
Although DPA has been banned from this type of use in Europe, it continues to be used by commercial non-organic apple growers and fruit producers here in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), includes diphenylamine in its NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards. Symptoms related to exposure to this chemical are serious and include skin and eye irritation, hematuria (blood in the urine), increases in blood pressure, changes in heart rate and even reproductive issues.
Sourcing Safe Apples
Apples, applesauce and apple juices have traditionally been favorite foods of kids and adults alike, which provides even more reason to search out and patronize apple sources that grow this fruit using pesticide-free, organic methods. Even if there are no organic orchards in your area, you may be able to source healthy apples through a food coop or even a friend or family member who has surplus apples from their own trees. Apples store easily, making it possible to purchase them in bulk. Most varieties will stay crisp and juicy in the refrigerator crisper or a cool basement for weeks or even months.
To extend your enjoyment of organic, pesticide free apples (and other fruits), consider learning to make and preserve fresh applesauce and juice and store it in the freezer. Home canning can also provide a way to safely and easily process apples and many other types of fruit for long-term, shelf stable storage. As a bonus, home processing and preservation of fruits and vegetables means that you can control additives, such as sugar. When you are offering healthy, pesticide-free apples to your family, you can smile as you say, “an apple a day, keeps the doctor away”.