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Barbara Panvel's hunt for the finest pesticide free produce continues. This week her journey takes her to Birmingham's famous Bull Ring market (note the spelling, you marketing wiseguys).

Fresh food, free from pesticide residues, is being grown in gardens and allotments, delivered by organic box schemes or bought from places like the Kitchen Garden in Kings Heath or Sage wholefoods in Moseley.

Some people shop 'on the wing', picking up items here and there - perhaps buying organic eggs at Marks and Spencer, organic cheese at Tesco, organic vegetables at Sainsbury's and at Waitrose, which also offers a good range of organic meat and dairy produce.

Apart from certain box-schemes, however, little of this will be locally grown. Those who want to buy fruit and vegetables grown within a forty mile radius can go to a nearby farmers market once a month or visit Organic Carol's stall in the Bull Ring outdoor market which is open from Tuesday to Saturday each week.

When Carol took over this family business she decided to focus on locally grown food. Some of it is organic and some, though grown in a similar way, is not certified. Prices here are well below those in supermarkets.

Organic Carol' stall in the Bull Ring

Organic Carol's stall in the Bull Ring

Though many make a special journey to this stall, people shopping in the outdoor market and, passing by, are also attracted by the reasonably priced produce.

Organic Carol's produce

Organic Carol's Stall

Many of the diners enjoying imaginative organic vegetarian dishes at the Warehouse café in Allison Street, Digbeth, probably don't realise that most of these are made from fruit and vegetables supplied by Carol.

* * * *

My last three columns (see them here) have also focussed on organic food and some people are probably asking why bother to grow or search for this? Why not go for the cheapest food available?

As scientists deliver differing conclusions which favour the product of the funding bodies, there is one uncontested point: government department tests show that vegetables grown on a large scale and sprayed with pesticides and fungicides retain traces of these chemicals, occasionally to danger levels, some of which accumulate in the human body.

The first sales breakthrough was in the organic baby food sector which shows that mothers who might not be able to afford a total organic diet understood the need to protect the most vulnerable developing family member.

Many expectant mothers also eat more organic food because babies can be adversely affected by chemicals passing through the bloodstream before birth and afterwards through breast-milk.

How can we afford more organic food? Eating less meat - having smaller portions or going for a number of vegetarian dishes each week - will put pounds back in the pocket to pay for pesticide free food.

It will also reduce the amount of cereal used for cattle food, lower the individual's risk of certain serious diseases and produce less methane from cattle emissions which are increasing levels of greenhouse-gases - a real win/win/win/win situation.

Do you buy organic food? If so where from? or is it all a con? Leave a comment on our Message Board.


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