the organic dilemma

Probably like many of you, I shop according to sales. Buy one get one free? Sign me up. Grapes for $0.99/lb? Heck yes. 10 for $10? I just peed myself a little bit.

But that being said, I won’t buy just anything. I stay mostly away from pre-packaged stuff, unless it’s healthy-ish snacks for the kids to stash in my purse on the go. There are items where I go full-hippie: cage-free, hormone-free eggs, humanely-raised, organic meat and poultry, wild-caught seafood, milk, etc. There are foods where I’m willing to compromise and go non-organic when the price is right (strawberries, grapes, certain new-crop apples, and some other fruits and veggies, but not all).

At certain points in my life when I’ve insisted on walking to the grocery store and wearing crystal deodorant (which does in no way, shape or form deodorize anything, in case you were wondering. I’m sorry if you were in my company during that phase.), I’ve splurged and gone full organic on everything. And what I’ve found, I’m sorry to say, is that it’s not always worth it. I don’t know the science behind organic farming, but I’m fairly sure that the chemicals that could scare a Deadhead away from a reunion show are there partially for pest control and partially to preserve produce from farm to table. I can count on five hands the number of times I’ve spent double digits on organic fruits and vegetables only to find them spoiled the very next day in my crisper.

This blog post began seeding in my brain when I was out in the garden planting grape starts. Once I had them in the ground, surrounded by organic compost and ready to grow away on their hand built trellis, I needed a way to feed them. The only thing I had in the garage was scary-looking Miracle Grow crystalized all-purpose plant food, which is dyed a shocking electric blue. I use it to feed my potted flowers. Although the package insisted it could be used for fruits and vegetables, there was no way I was going to put that stuff on grapes I was eventually going to eat.

But the very same day I went to the market and purchased a package of non-organic strawberries (on a great sale), which had probably been fed with something akin to the electric-blue Miracle Grow.

Why am I a hypocrite?

It’s partially the distance; I don’t see the pesticides on the strawberry farm. I just know that the berries are sweet and pretty and two pounds for $5.99. Moreover, they won’t go bad in two days, giving my family more time to eat them. The organic ones are not as pretty and maybe as sweet, but twice (or three times) the price, and will go bad if I don’t use them in a very short window, wasting their expensive juiciness.

I suppose we all have choices to make when it comes to quality and budget. Sometimes our values of one override the other, and sometimes the two intermingle, as in my case. In an ideal word I’d shop for everything at the farmer’s market and not have to think twice about paying $15 for apples. But the reality is that our family goes through an enormous amount of food and we’re enormously busy. I make the best choices I can and try to keep the credit card in check.

Tell me in the comments: What do you absolutely buy organic? What do you compromise on?

spring confusion

Spring is still more than a month away.

Right?

I know that in other parts of the country, they’re blanketed in snow. Well, more like sleeping-bagged and down-comfortored while wearing footie-pajamas in snow. And I’m sorry.

But in this neck of the woods, we’ve had a delightfully mild winter that has given way to an early spring. So mild, in fact, that my perennials are confused.

They think it’s a perfect time to poke their little perennial heads out of the ground and say hello.

Don’t look at the weeds. Look at the lovely, lovely crocuses covered in morning dew.

You’re looking at the weeds.

Yeah, I saw ya.

It’s too early, my darlings. Not that I’m not happy to see you. It’s just too early to start taking care of you.

I was just getting into a taking-care-of-the-indoors-and-not-worrying-about-the-yard groove. And you’ve busted it.

Now it’s time to start pulling those pesky little weeds, prune, plant, repeat. Are you dreading this as much as I am?

Ah, well. So it ’tis. It’ll be nice to have my hands in the dirt again. Even if it’s cold, cold wet dirt blanketed in never-ending weeds.

Happy spring (and tuesday)!

-RDG

P.S. Last year I received this book as a gift, and it has given me a good start on my gardening education. I was a total newbie, and happy to be, until we bought a house that is 90% yard. I’m still completely naive, but at least I can now identify plants. With my book. If you’re looking for a good basic gardening book, I highly recommend it.