Thursday, April 15, 2010

Organic red peppers, local food, and other conundrums

Colorful peppers are a good thing; they're full of nutrients and low in calories, in addition to being tasty. The hothouse peppers available in the supermarket from the Netherlands, Canada, and Mexico are tasty, but bear a burden of energy costs, food miles, etc. Balancing nutrition and one's ecological footprint isn't always easy.

In our warm summer climate, we can grow lots of nice peppers, spicy anchos and poblanos, as well as mild Italian roasting peppers, pimentos, and 'pizza' peppers. What we (at least I) can't grow well is large, juicy 'bell' peppers, whether green, red, orange, or yellow.

This time of year, my home-grown frozen peppers add a nice kick to sauces and stir-fries, but they're pretty meager compared to what's available in the market. These seem to be a product of pampered greenhouses, kept at optimal temperatures, with abundant moisture and nutrients through the growing season.

So I was interested to see frozen organic pepper slices for sale at a modest cost in one of our local supermarkets.

They're nothing but peppers, unlike one of my favorite frozen vegetables 'Pepper Stir-Fry' from Birdseye,, which includes onions, too (cheaper, of course).

OK, these are village-grown, organic, all peppers, about $2.25 US dollars (roughly equivalent to the Birdseye product on sale). So what's the story?

They're grown in a Chinese organic vegetable village (certified). Hmm.

We visited a very interesting organic vegetable village in Southern Vietnam last winter -- a remarkable place. Maybe this village is similar? Who knows?

But, perhaps the trade-off isn't so difficult after all. Supporting organic vegetables grown in China certainly can't hurt, but I'm thinking why can't I buy nice frozen peppers grown closer to home?


  1. Call me cynical, but I don't trust foods produced in China. The food scares (melamine in milk, and animal food) over the last few years make me think that the Chinese have a Very Different Approach to food safety.

  2. Hi Lisa: This is such a common dilemma for those of us who want to eat ethically. Local veggies are often less glamourous, less plentiful and harder to get when our gardens aren't producing. But as consumers we are really spoiled. I hate being dependent on food from China, and it would be a challenge to see how long we could go without eating some. What are the organic standards in China? Ellie

  3. I also try to avoid food products from China. Especially after that baby formula incident two or three years ago - where the formula had some heavy metals in it or something (it was contaminated somehow) and the babies got kidney stones, and some had kidney failure. Clothes and stuff are fine, but not food. Plant and Garden Blog

  4. I totally agree with the perspective that food produced in China can be questionable. I'm quite averse to buying anything edible from China (or imported in general, for that matter).

    That's partially why I found these peppers interesting. My guess is that the American company that's distributing the peppers is contracting for their growth (so the USDA organic seal applies)-- it'd be interesting to find out.

  5. I agree that US grown would be far more preferable.

  6. Have you tried growing baby Belles? A small bell pepper red, orange, yellow.


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