There are several mature apple trees near me that badly need pruning. They’re growing in an abandoned field that was a leech field many years ago before the county installed sewers. Recently, a neighbor asked if I knew anyone who could prune them. “A group of us would like to eat the apples,” she said, “but last year’s apples were too small to pick. The trees would produce larger fruit if they were pruned.”
Fortunately, no one had offered to prune them, because I had seen someone spray the entire field with pesticides for many years. Until proven safe through soil tests, I consider the apples from this field to be harmful, not healthful.
No doubt some of the neighbors won’t believe me. It’s easy to dismiss something you can’t see, taste, or feel, especially when it tastes good. But pesticides are harmful. Some of them, persistent organic pollutants (POPs), change the way the adrenal glands function by altering the balance of cortisol — the hormone that handles all of our stress. And this alteration can predispose a person to diabetes and heart disease.
POPs are toxic chemicals that are particularly long-lived. PCB and DDT are two of the worst. And they accumulate in the fatty tissues of animals, fish, and people. Always use organic pesticides like Safer brand, found in hardware stores throughout the country. Commercial pesticides are toxic.
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Unfortunately, you can’t simply look at a piece of land and know how contaminated the soil is without a soil test. My neighbors had no way of knowing that the apple trees and surrounding area had been sprayed with dangerous chemicals. You can find soil test kits on the Internet. Test your soil for minerals and toxins before planting any foods in unfamiliar soil.
When in doubt, build two-foot high planter boxes and fill them with organic soil for your fruits and vegetables.
Most important: eat organic food whenever possible. Toxins found in conventionally grown foods have been associated with numerous illnesses including Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases, cancers, and fatigue.
Meanwhile, if a friend or neighbor has an over abundance of fruits or vegetables and wants to share the bounty with you, accept the gift graciously. But only eat it if you know it’s organic.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand