Organic fruits and vegetables have gradually become an accepted norm in Singapore as consumer awareness of eating healthily and the integration of wellness into their daily lives grows. The term organic is used to define food that has been grown without the use of artificial chemical fertilisers and pesticides. The American non-governmental organisation Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes a yearly “Dirty Dozen” list, comprising of produce with some of the highest levels of pesticide residue. The EWG further recommends consumers to buy organic food in order to reduce pesticide consumption.
Significant effort has gone into ensuring healthy and nutritious organic produce is provided to the end consumer; beginning with the farming process all the way to the labelling of organic produce.
Organic produce is derived from farms which employ a different approach from conventional commercial farming. Organic farming seeks to enhance the environmental ecosystem through a harmonious relationship with nature. Compost, organic matter derived from leaves and household food waste, is added within the soil to add rich nutrients and increase soil fertility as they decompose. Compare this to the use of chemical fertilisers which cling to the produce after the harvesting process. Surface runoff causes them to end up in water bodies leading to groundwater contamination.
Mulching, the process of covering the topsoil with plant material, acts as a protective cover to reduce water loss and erosion. As a bonus, decomposed mulch adds to the soil fertility. Organic farmers plant cover crops such as legumes and grasses to keep pests away and prevent plant disease. No pesticides are used as these can harm beneficial microorganisms including soil-aerating bacteria.
Crop rotation is the growing of different crops in succession to prevent exhausting the land. The crop rotation is planned throughout the year as some crops add nutrients, Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphate, to the soil while others draw a specific nutrient ratio from it. According to the multi-year Sustainable Agriculture Farming Systems (SAFS) project conducted at the University of California-Davis, organic farming showed greater water infiltration rates, higher soil quality, soil biological activity and increased amount of bio mass in the soil over the years.
Organic fruits and vegetables demonstrate higher nutritional value than non-organic food. Research from the British Journal of Nutrition showed organic produce possessing higher concentrations of antioxidants while reviews of multiple studies further demonstrated higher concentrations of Vitamin C, and minerals such as iron and magnesium.
Organic produce is distinguished by its organic label as it can often resemble non-organic produce. When picking organic produce, verify that the organic label comes from a reputable source. Australian organic certification is known to be one of the strictest certification process in the world. For example, the Australian Certified Organic (ACO) process grants a company the right to use their trademarked logo only after a successfully audit.
Organic fruits and vegetables can be some of the most nutritious, safest and environmentally-friendly produce that end up on your serving plate. The next time you visit a supermarket or grocer, add them to your shopping list for maximum nutritional benefits!