When To Buy Organic Produce

Strawberries top the Dirty Dozen list

Knowing which fruits and vegetables to splurge and buy organic can be tricky. Each year, the Environmental Working Group puts out a list of the Dirty Dozen, the fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide residue—which is a good place to start.

Topping the list this year, as they did last year, are strawberries. Spinach comes in second, with nectarines, apples, peaches, celery, grapes, pears, cherries, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers and potatoes following. Pears and potatoes are new to the list, kicking off cherry tomatoes and cucumbers.  

Meanwhile, the group also has a list of the Clean Fifteen, the produce with the lowest amount of pesticide residue. This year, that includes: sweet corn, avocados, pineapples, cabbage, onions, frozen sweet peas, papayas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplant, honeydew melon, kiwis, cantaloupe, cauliflower and grapefruit.

While it's tempting to write off the Dirty Dozen as, well, dirty, Food Dive points out that 99 percent of produce screened by the USDA had levels of pesticides below the EPA guidelines. And thoroughly rinsing produce with tap water "will go a long way toward washing pesticide residues off your fruit and vegetables," the New York Times says. So splurge on those 12 items when you can and wash particularly well when you can't.