I bought some fruit in the supermarket the other day: apples and grapes and that key to immortality, blueberries.
The apples, now conveniently available in our nearby supermarket, came from a Vermont orchard about thirty miles from here, so they did not grievously wound the planet with pollution and waste of non-renewable resources.
On the other hand the grapes and blueberries, may Gaia forgive me, came as far south as you can get without hitting Antarctic ice--the land of guanacos, vicunas, and Isabel Allende. On the way home from the supermarket I tried to imagine the odyssey of my bag of grapes and my carton of blueberries from their south Andean slopes by fume-spewing truck to some Chilean airport, then north over the snow-capped volcanoes of Peru and Ecuador, over restless Colombia and Chavez-mourning Venezuela, over the blue Caribbean, the blue Gulf of Mexico, the Deep South ankle-deep in azaleas, and the sodden mid-Atlantic. After a brief rest in some American airport, they were flung into a truck and taken to a warehouse for packing. Another truck conveyed them to the supermarket, and finally my Subaru, weaving and sliding up our muddy driveway, delivered them into our kitchen....
Of course the main reason I had bought the apples, grapes and blueberries was not their taste--does anybody buy supermarket fruit because of its taste anymore?--but their antioxidants. But eating one of those grapes right out of the bag could be downright harmful to my health, for who knows what Chilean growers do to their fruit before they ship it north, what pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers they use to maximize their profits?
The apples I was less worried about. They are not organic, but the grower's website states, "[We] adhere
to strict growing practices that emphasize the health of our
soils, waterways and workers, and encourages [sic] beneficial insect
in the control of pests.... Sometimes [however,] we must treat the
orchard with a chemical because we have exhausted all other options." http://sunriseorchards.com/growing-practices Nevertheless, apple sprays being among the most toxic, I couldn't eat an apple straight out of the bag either.
No. Before I could put these health-giving, perhaps even tasty, fruits into my mouth, I would have to do fruit laundry.
Fruit laundry involves more than a casual rinsing under the kitchen faucet. You cannot count on mere water to get rid of the poisons that cling to the skin of apples, grapes and berries. And getting rid of the peel won't do the job either. What you need, according to Dr. Andrew Weil, is dish soap and elbow grease: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/id/QAA298790
This is what I do with every piece fruit I buy in the store: I plunge it into bubble bath of detergent-laced water. I scrub it (well, not the grapes and berries--I'm not that obsessed) with a brush. I rinse it, then rinse it again. I rinse it some more. I then wonder whether those antioxidants are worth all this--couldn't I just swallow a vitamin pill? But I persevere and drain the lot and pat it dry with a dish towel. Finally, when the fruit laundry is done, I eat a couple of grapes and a blueberry.
Which is why I can't wait until our own blueberry bushes start bearing, and why I try to take such good care of my apple trees. As for the grapes, I'll take mine in the form of wine. There's nothing like a glass of dark red Malbec to banish the worry about what deadly stuff I am putting into my body.