Organic Foods & Café boss, Ali Al-Khalifa, on pesticides and how to avoid them
Time Out Bahrain staff
The garden show’s got us thinking about all things green so we asked Ali Al-Khalifa, owner of the Organic Foods & Café shop in Seef, for some thoughts on pesticides and how to avoid them.
Farming – the race to the bottom
We, as consumers, vote every day. We vote with our dollars, dinars, dirhams, or riyals - this is why it is so important to know what it is we are voting for when we buy our produce. What methods of farming are used and what impact they will have on our planet and ourselves. For that, we should look back at the evolution of farming over the last century.
Typically, farmers grew whatever they could in small patches, harvesting only what they wanted to sell before transporting it a few kilometres to their local market. However, the advent of reliable transportation gave farmers access to a much larger market and the sky was the limit.
Large chemical corporations had the perfect answer for farmers looking to increase their yields: synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. Farmers were able to focus on one crop in much larger plots, finally finding economies of scale. This created a huge amount of competition and started the so-called “race to the bottom”. Farmers had to drop prices to compete, which drove researchers to find even cheaper and more efficient ways of production.
Somewhere along the way, people took note that industrial agriculture was impacting their health and the environment negatively – thus was born the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM). An organic standard was created, based on pre-revolution farming practices, modernised for today’s market. Today, you will find organic farms that have taken a step further and have gone bio-dynamic, living and working with the land rather than coercing it to their needs.
The Dirty Dozen and The Clean 15 Last month, we ran a small flyer listing the fruits and vegetables that you can get away with buying non-organic (the clean 15). The list can be viewed on our website www.organicsbahrain.com. The key to living an organic lifestyle is to understand where you can compromise when there is a financial limitation and where you absolutely cannot. If you absolutely must eat non-organic, then eat fruits and veggies that: 1. Are not notorious for overuse of pesticides (apples, lettuce, spinach and other leafy greens are prime culprits). 2. Are not mostly water (such as watermelon and nectarines). Pesticide gets absorbed quickly by watery fruit and veg through the skin. 3. Are not dark in colour (such as beetroots, carrots and tomatoes). These vegetables are very nutrient rich, which comes in through the soil. The pesticide seeps into the soil and is then absorbed into the vegetable or fruit. 4. Are not the same price or cheaper when produced organically. Many organic vegetables and herbs are actually the same price or cheaper - mint, parsley, and vanilla come to mind, but there are lots that are cheaper when in season!
Washing your veggies There is no clear-cut way of washing your vegetables, but there are a few things you should keep in mind:
If you are eating organic produce, there really is not much you need to wash off but it is always good to give the produce a good rinsing to remove any excess soil left over from the harvest.
Eating a “clean” vegetable does not mean it doesn’t have pesticide on its skin. Be careful to clean this off using a natural, chemical-free soap or vegetable wash (which we have available in-store). Water is just not enough, as very often the pesticide is mixed with glue to keep it from running off when it rains.
Warm water can also help in removing wax which is commonly used to make produce look nice and shiny.
In the garden If, like me, you prefer to grow your own produce then here are a few tips to keep your garden pesticide-free.
Have a small composting pit where any excess cuttings and leftovers can be dumped. Home compositing methods are easy to find online and are a great and free alternative to buying synthetic soils and fertilisers.
As your garden becomes more natural and your produce more delicious, it will no doubt attract pests. Natural pest control is actually quite easy:
Build a scarecrow!
Have a light net around the produce that can be removed and replaced easily.
Spray Neem oil on your plants which is available in-store (organically grown) or in the local market (non-organic). Neem discourages the smaller pests that can get through your net.
But most of all, it is hard work and enjoying the nurturing of your garden that will give you the best produce. And if not, we - your community store - will always be here!