There are foods that I buy organic only occasionally, when I'm feeling flush, and then there are those, like potatoes, that I always make sure to buy organic. I think I got that from my mom, who was the first to tell me about how heavily conventional potatoes are sprayed with pesticides and herbicides. She always recommended that I either buy organic, or be sure to thoroughly peel conventional potatoes.
A list of "the seven foods experts won't eat" that's been making the rounds caught my eye this morning, particularly the potato entry, which offers some supporting evidence to my mom's claim. Because they're root vegetables they absorb just about anything that's in the soil, so any excess chemicals in the soil will likely make its way into the plant, according to the article. And to make matters worse, potatoes are among the most-sprayed vegetables.
Here are a few blurbs about pesticide and herbicide use among conventional potato growers.
"They're treated with fungicides during the growing season, then sprayed with herbicides to kill off the fibrous vines before harvesting. After they're dug up, the potatoes are treated yet again to prevent them from sprouting."
"A 2006 U.S.D.A. test found 81 percent of potatoes tested still contained pesticides after being washed and peeled, and the potato has one of the the highest pesticide contents of 43 fruits and vegetables tested, according to the Environmental Working Group."
Michael Pollan's 'Botany of Desire':
"The typical potato grower stands in the middle of a bright green circle of plants that have been doused with so much pesticide that their leaves wear a dull white chemical bloom and the soil they're rooted in is a lifeless gray powder."
Another good reason to eschew conventional spuds is that organic potatoes aren't much more expensive.