Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen – yet another reason to jump into foraging and gleaning

Catalyst for Clean Eating

Years past, I balked at the idea of clean eating as well as foraging and gleaning – I probably didn’t even know the exact meaning of the words until five years ago. I think back to a rather embarrassing scenario when a neighbor I didn’t know very well offered me six avocados from their fruit tree. I politely (in my mind) took the fruit and let them go to mush on my counter. Why? In my mind, I “didn’t know where they came from,” as if they were natural blooming unwrapped Halloween candy that I should look at with suspicious eyes.

I was absolutely assinine. 

Here was a neighbor, who’s yard I could actually SEE, and I was choosing commercially produced, likely flown in fruit over organic and local.  Obviously, I wasn’t on the green bandwagon yet.

Good Eating Cucumbers, apples, and carrots.

Five Essential Facts about Pesticides Article by Environmental Working Group

The School of Public Health has more information here about produce pesticides.

As for what items are listed on the “Best Dressed and Worst Dressed” List for fruits and veggies, I give you the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen:

Found to typically contain the highest levels of pesticides here are The Dirty Dozen:

  • apples
  • bell peppers
  • blueberries (domestic)
  • celery
  • cucumbers
  • grapes
  • lettuce
  • nectarines(imported)
  • peaches
  • potatoes
  • spinach
  • strawberries

Found to typically contain the lowest levels of pesticides here are The Clean Fifteen:

  • asparagus
  • avocado
  • cabbage
  • cantaloupe (domestic)
  • eggplant
  • grapefruit
  • kiwi
  • mangoes
  • mushrooms
  • onions
  • peas
  • pineapple
  • sweet corn
  • sweet potatoes
  • watermelon

With that said, and understanding a bit of the problem that we have in North America with agricultural waste – it is estimated that 50% of consumable crops produced in the United States alone never make it to market – that is a DEPLORABLE amount of waste that could be going to people seeking food sources in the often food desert-like conditions of many areas.


The amazing organization Sustainable Food Trust which states that “Our vision is for food and farming systems which nourish the health of the planet and its people. Our mission is to accelerate the transition to more sustainable food and farming systems.”

The Sustainable Food Trust was founded in 2011 and provides solid information as well as some very visual insight into the surplus and waste of the commercial food industry.

 Eating This-Is-Rubbish-food-waste-mountain.jpg

The above image is courtesy of Sustainable Food Trust “The Truth Behind Waste in Supermarket Supply Chains.”

Couple the food waste statistics to the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen knowledge and there was a ripe situation for me to revamp my eating. Another catalyst for me considering homegrown urban gardening as well as gleaning and foraging from pesticide-free sources was purely economic – going down to a writer’s income as a “Two for One Parent” meant I needed to reduce my footprint to as minimal as possible!

This last Wednesday I made quarts of Apple Sauce and pounds of roasted peppers. I’m working on pepper jellies later this evening and apple petit pies to freeze as hostess gifts for the upcoming holiday season. All created through foraged and gleaned fruits and vegetables.

There were no avocados to harvest up here in the cold, but I would have gladly accepted the bounty this time around.

Resources on Clean Eating, Foraging, and Gleaning for personal use and for Community Health:

How to Start a Gleaning Program via USDA

Feeding America

Wholesome Wave

Plant a Row Program

Although I am by no means at freegan level when it comes to foraging and gleaning, I am happy to report that with pantry staples ready, and with the “fruits of our labor” canned, frozen and stored – this winter will be one of many tasty baked goods and gifts to share in our new urban homesteading lifestyle. My “Simply Perfect Apple and Fruit Sauce” Recipe will be posted soon, and we invite you to subscribe to stay informed!

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4 thoughts on “Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen – yet another reason to jump into foraging and gleaning”

  1. For agricultural businessmen, limiting the amount of produce in the market increases the profit. It is really sad when we come to think of it that the earth, with its bounty not manipulated, can actually feed the whole of the current global population. Cheers.

    1. In addition, here in North America, the cosmetic standards for produce is cartoonishly high and that also leaves so much to rot on the vine. It is shameful and sad, in my opinion.

      1. Same here. But as individuals, we can raise awareness on these matters (as what you’re already doing 🙂 ), and collectively, I hope we can make a difference. Somehow.

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