Category Archives: Green

Those Pesky Pervasive Pesticides

New labeling on foods tells you about fat content, sugar content and even additives, but what about pesticides? Even more so, what about fruits or vegetables that have no labels? I must have looked through hundreds of pages about this and that pesticide, so much that even a Gerry Butler marathon wouldn’t have put an end to my headache. Here is the result of some of the information I managed to decipher.  A report conducted from 2002-2005 (some were updated in the 2007 summary report) listed produce with more and less pesticide residue. These are still within EU pesticide regulation.  The produce in the Red column have more pesticides, Amber less and Green the least. MRL is the acronym for Maximum Residue Level. If you have a limited budget this information helps by indicating which produce would be better to buy organic and for which it is less important. You will notice that some fruits are listed in two columns. This is because local fruits generally contain less pesticide than imported ones.

RED mostfrequently contain MRL AMBER GREEN lessfrequently contain the MRL
Apple Apricots Asparagus
*Banana Blackberries Blueberries
Beans (green & specialty Carrots Broccoli
Celery Cauliflower Endive
Cherries Cherries Exotic fruits (passion fruit, pomegranate, etc)
*Citrus fruits Cultivated mushrooms Fennel
Courgettes / Zucchini Lemons* Kiwis
Cucumber Lettuce Onions
Currants Mangoes*
Dried fruit Peaches Star fruit
Eggplant Pineapple*
Gooseberries Plums
Grapes Spinach
Pre-packed salad

* Products that are peeled may contain fewer contaminants.

Until an EU regulation bans pesticides or makes it so that only organic pesticides are used, the advocates against pesticides have recommended the following:

  1. Replace as much as possible of the produce in the first column with organic produce
  2. Ask your supermarket about their pesticide policy, some European supermarkets (mostly in Belgium, Germany, UK) have taken measures to reduce pesticides in/on their fruits and vegetables.
  3. Try to eat locally and seasonally, fruits and vegetables grown out of season have been shown to contain more pesticide residue than when in season.
  4. Peel and cook foods where possible
  5. Scrub hard foods such as apples, carrots etc.
  6. Rinse all foods before peeling
  7. Strip leafy vegetables like lettuce of the outer leaves and rinse well.
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Posted by on August 5, 2010 in FYI, Green


DIY Pest control

My journey into organic gardening started as a science project for my son. It then morphed into planting some herbs and small vegetables, but while the rocket tasted great most of my hard work was eaten by aphids and other  insects. So, of course, I turned to the internet (surprise! surprise!) looking for a non-toxic way to get rid of them. I found a couple of good formulas for a repellent and pesticides that mostly use items I use for cooking.  In this way the pests are gone, the kids are not harmed and I get to enjoy my roka salad.  So here are a few pest control recipes that I and others have used. But first, a few things to keep in mind before getting started;

1. It’s better to spray in the early morning or the when it’s cool in evening. Do not spray when temps are over 27c or the plants may “burn”.

2. First, test on a small portion of the plant then wait a day to see if there is any negative reaction

3. “Less is more” don’t increase use or amount of the ingredients.  Use gradually till you see results. i.e., garlic, chilli and soap can actually harm plants if large amounts are used.

4. Although I’ve not had experience with this as I have a balcony garden, in large gardens some bugs are good, so when using general pesticides, as much as possible use them directly on the pests to avoid getting rid of good ones.

Recipes and Formulas:

Let’s start with soaps. I used this on the surrounding area of the plant containers and  you can use this on leaves, but don’t use on blossoming plants. This works on aphids, and mites. In a clean spray bottle mix a few drops of mild dishwashing liquid with a couple of pints of water and spray liberally. Adding couple teaspoons of cooking oil as it helps it to cling to the leaves.

– For getting rid of tent caterpillars try getting a bucket of water with some dish soap in it. Using a mop soaked with the soapy water ‘wash’ the tent in the tree. The soap breaks down the natural oils in the nest.

– This is a general pesticide. It may repel some pests and will get rid of others. What you need is a thoroughly cleaned spray bottle, 1 bulb of garlic, a pint of water, some ground chilli, cayenne is good.  For sticking power on large leaves add a couple of teaspoons of mild hand/dish soap. Blend the garlic with the water and pepper; let them steep, then strain the liquid to get lumps out. If you are using soap add it the very last after straining. You can keep it in the fridge for around 5/6 days in a glass container.

The following are repellents.

– Clove and lavender oils are good repellents for flying insects and silver fish. I use it as a room spray for mosquitoes and ants.

– This is for a different kind of pest – weeds, but as I live in a flat I’ve not had an opportunity to use. If someone tries it please let me know how it works. An ounce of table salt to a gallon of water sprayed on weeds or straight salt, especially in non-garden areas can stop weeds.

– Also, salt sprinkled on plants or where snails / slugs congregate can discourage them. For your plants spray / sprinkle early in the morning when there is still dew on the plants leaves.

– For those who live near fields this has been shown to work well against mice. Soak cotton balls with pure peppermint oil and place near an entry hole or common place they have been sighted. The smell will keep them away; make sure you replace every couple of months or so.


– As a deterrent, trace the ant column back to their point of entry. Set any of the following items at the entry area in a small line, which ants will not cross: cayenne pepper, cinnamon, citrus oil or turmeric. Also are good to place near any ant hills. On vertical paths place Vaseline or Vicks.  I washed my floor with a mixture of vinegar (white), water, soap (mild), lavender and clove oil every couple of days for around a week and that seemed to work.

– For a pesticide try some boric acid mixed with sugar placed near the ant hill. The ants will take it to the queen. But make sure that pets and kids don’t go near it.

If you know of any other natural pest control I would love to know about it.

– Happy gardening


Posted by on July 9, 2010 in DIY, Green, Home


What is Leaching into Your Food?

One of the best inventions of our time has to be Tupperware, wonderful plastic containers that keep things fresh and odor free while neatly stacking in our fridge. I personally love them and use them for more than leftovers.  As much as I use them, after reading some articles about how chemicals in plastics can leach into our food, my love of them became tempered. According to research, at room or cool temperatures chemicals leachage is small, but when plastic containers are heated the amount of chemicals leached into food rises dramatically. Here are a few points I jotted down from the articles.

Basically, ‘know your plastics’. There are around 7 types of plastics and every plastic container from Tupperware to baby bottles have a number on them to identify the kind of plastic used.  You may see the letters or the number in a triangle usually on the bottom and they are:

1 Polyethyelene terephthalate (PETE)

2 High-density polyethylene (HDPE)

3 Vinyl, polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

4 Low-density polyethylene (LDPE)

5 Polypropylene (PP)

6 Polystyrene (PS) (white trays under packaged fresh foods)

7 Includes polycarbonate, acrylic, polylactic acid, fibreglass

Avoid number 7 for  food storage. I threw out my scratched ones and used any new ones for knickknacks like buttons, etc.  Also avoid 3 and 6. If you are using plastics for storing foods use only 1, 2, 4 and 5.

Although plastics 1, 2, 4 and 5 are ok for storage, here are some dos and don’ts when it comes to using them:

  1. Plastic that says its ok for use in microwave or dishwasher simply means that it won’t melt, so it’s best not to use them in a dishwasher or microwave. Wash plastics by hand to avoid getting them scratched. If they do either get rid or use for nonfood items.
  2. Avoid using PVC cling film/ plastic wrap in microwave or wrapping food in it. Look for non-PVC cling film to wrap food in.
  3. Use as much as possible, glass or stainless steel for food storage.
  4. Let food cool down before storing in a plastic container. In addition, letting food cool down before putting the fridge will cut down on energy used by the fridge to cool it down.

Although we can’t avoid using plastics, as they are everywhere, we can know our plastic to be better informed about to use it.

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Posted by on June 14, 2010 in articles, FYI, Green


Its A Fishy Story

Spring is here, hooray! The weather is warming up and we can even start to eat outside. To me spring is a time to enjoy seafood. Ok, I know we can eat fish and seafood anytime but I somehow enjoy it more around springtime, don’t ask me why. It just seems like seafood season to me. So, with that in mind, I thought that I would write about fish, that is, which fish to eat and which to avoid due to the levels of mercury in the fish.  Also, the * indicates over-fished species, so it would be better not eat them and eat sustainable fish instead. Thus, we can be healthy and environmental friendly at the same time! 🙂

In all the information I went through, these pieces of advice were prominent:

  1. Pregnant and breast-feeding women or those who are trying to become pregnant should limit how much tuna they eat. Canned tuna usually has less mercury, so limit the amount to around two medium cans or one fresh steak per week.
  2. Pregnant women and children up to the age of 16 should avoid swordfish, shark and marlin as they have the highest amounts of mercury.
  3. Other people can eat the above three fish, but small amounts – around one portion a week.
  4. Adjust portion sizes to suit younger children.

The following list comprises the mercury content of some fish; for a wider variety of fish and more information on the subject visit and

  • Over fished *: These are either over fished or caught in a way that is environmentally unfriendly.
  • ** Farmed Salmon may contain PCB’s, which in the long-term can be bad for your health.
  • A dolphin on a of a can of tuna indicates it was caught without harming dolphins.
OW MERCURYEnjoy these fish! MODERATEEat 6 servings or less per month HIGHEat 3 servings or less per month: HIGHESTAvoid eating:
Anchovies Bass (Striped, Black) Grouper* Mackerel (King)
Clam Carp Mackerel (Spanish, Gulf) Marlin*
Cockles Cod (Alaskan)* Orange Roughy Roughy*
Cod (UK) Halibut (Atlantic)* Sea Bass (Chilean)* Shark*
Crab Halibut (Pacific) Tuna (Canned Albacore) Swordfish*
Crab (Domestic) Hoki Tuna (Yellowfin)* Tuna (Bigeye, Ahi)*
Crawfish/Crayfish Lobster
Exotic prawn Monkfish*
Flounder* Perch (Freshwater)
Haddock Red fish
Haddock (Atlantic)* Skate*
Hake Snapper*
Herring Tuna (Canned chunk light)
Lobster Tuna (Skipjack)*
Mackerel (N. Atlantic, Chub)
Perch (Ocean)
Queen scallop
Salmon (Fresh)**
Sea bass
Sea bream
Sole (Pacific)
Squid (Calamari)

Remember, fish and seafood are good for you and should be part of a healthy diet. By eating sustainable fish we not only get the nutrition we need but we also help the environment.  Enjoy spring and enjoy a few shrimps on the barbeque……..Oh, my…I’m making myself hungry!

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Posted by on April 17, 2010 in articles, FYI, Green


DIY Greenhouse

Spring is on its way and this is the time when most people decide to plants flowers or herbs, or even vegetables. I love to plant herbs, especially ones that are expensive or hard to find here, but the problem I always face is space. I live in a flat with an average sized balcony.  Last spring, for ideas I went on….all together now….the internet and found several articles about container gardening, in other words – gardening for people with limited spaces.  Following the directions, I planted my seeds, waited and saw my herbs sprout. I really got excited about it, but the herbs and soil started drying out. What to do??  This is where the internet came in handy. Once more I found some relevant articles about making a greenhouse, but not the usually metal and glass greenhouses, this one was for the container garden, i.e. ME and all one needs is a stick and some plastic bags!

Your plants should last longer and can grow in various environments in this greenhouse. My roka lasted a few weeks more than before I had one!!. You don’t need much and how much depends on the size of your container, i.e. a larger container will require more material. The directions following are based on a medium-sized plant pot.

  1. A plant pot (make sure it has holes at the bottom), with own water collection plate.
  2. Plastic bags: sandwich bags (the thicker the better), or you can get clear plastic sheets from the garden shop and cut to the size you want to make an adequate cover
  3. A stick to keep the bag upright
  4. Something to seal the bag at the bottom, this can be a rubber band (this works well on small plant pots), or brown tape

Plant your seeds as usual, fill the pot with lots of water, making sure it is full. Plant the stick in the pot to keep the bag/plastic up and cover the pot, making sure it fits well so the moisture stays in. Then seal the bag/plastic with a rubber band or brown tape.

Put the pot in a sunny spot on your balcony. The heat of the sun builds the condensation on the plastic and waters the plant (This is a good science project for kids). If the plants get too big for the bag/plastic sheet, just replace the plastic and stick with new larger ones! Eh Voilá!!

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Posted by on March 9, 2010 in articles, DIY, Green