Dirty Dozen

You’ve all heard of the dirty dozen, right?  Not to be confused with Dirty Harry (though my mother would plant him in her garden, if she could!).  These are the top twelve fruits and vegetables known for being laden with pesticides and fungicides.  Unfortunately, my favorite “Granny Smith” tops the list every year. 

Apples.  The number one offender when it comes to toxic residue.  According to Environmental Working Group (EWG), the group who publishes the list every year, it’s believed “more pesticides and fungicides are being applied after the harvest so the fruit can have a longer shelf life.”  Huh.  Well who’d a thunk it.  Yet another reason to grow your own.  That’s what the kids think, anyway.  This week we chased caterpillars from the garden and talked pesticide.  Organic pesticide.

The little boy looked up at me in horror.  “You want me to squish it?”

“Well, we don’t want to spray it with toxic chemical sprays.”

“Because we’re organic!” a bright-eyed girl piped up, heads bobbing agreement all around.

“But it’s nature.  We don’t want to kill nature.”

Got me there.  Eric Carle’s book The Hungry Caterpillar came to mind, and its big, bold colors tugged sweet memories from my children’s pre-school years.   Now what?

All eyes on me, I said, “True.  But sometimes we have to make choices in life.  It’s our pumpkins or the caterpillar.”

“But he’s going to turn into a butterfly.  We don’t kill butterflies, do we?”

“No.  Butterflies are good for the garden!” cried the girl to his side, apparently quite the authority when it came to matters of the garden.

Suddenly, a slew of small gloved hands reached in between the leaves to grab the green worm, but not his.  He was having none of it.  Funny, how ethics rears its complicated head in the garden, isn’t it?  I was a bit torn myself.  (Until I turned back to the devastation.)  I never liked watching cheetahs chase down wildebeests, either, but nature was nature.  Dispatch was a part of life.

As the children and I continued the hunt, the boy ran up to me and said, “I know! I know!”

Mind you I’d forgotten the conversation by this time but turned with eager ear.  “Yes?  What?”

With a broad smiled, he explained, “We can pull the caterpillar very gently from the leaf and put him somewhere else, away from the garden where he can’t eat our pumpkins.”

Pride swelled in my heart.  He’d managed to save pumpkin AND caterpillar, not to mention maintain his moral fortitude at the same time.  “Excellent idea.” 

Of course, when working with a group of kindergarteners, one good idea leads to another.  “I know–we can feed him acorns, too.”

“Perfect.”  I pointed to the far side of the school yard, beneath a canopy of oaks.  “We’ll move him over there.”

Like a beautiful, happy-ever-after, all was right in the world.  Until I gave them the two-minute warning.  “Time to get back to class!”

Crestfallen faces stared back at me.  “So soon?”

I smiled.  Time flies when you’re having fun.

For your complete list of the dirty dozen along with the “healthy” dozen, head on over to EWG’s website and download your copy today.  Unless that is, you’re growing your own. :) (You are, aren’t you?)