Often, consumers choose organic vegetables grown as naturally as possible. The University of Michigan reports that sales of organic food have increased 20 percent per year since 1990. Organic vegetables are grown without hormones, genetic engineering, radiation or synthetic pesticides or fertilizers---and the United States Department of Agriculture sets the standards for use of the label "100 percent organic" (please see Resources section).
Tomatoes are the most popular homegrown organic vegetable. Heirloom tomatoes are grown from seeds saved and passed down through generations without genetic manipulation. Heirloom tomatoes are often grown organically and are labeled as such. Tomatoes that carry the label "USDA Certified Organic" are pesticide-free and safe to feed children. Researchers at the University of California at Davis have determined that organically grown tomatoes are richer in two types of flavonoids-quercetin and kaempferol, producing potent antioxidant activity.
Winter squash, pumpkins, and gourds belong to the Cucurbita family of plants. Organic farmers who grow squash use methods such as crop rotation, green manures, integrated pest management and compost to produce healthy plants without chemical residue. Heirloom varieties of zucchini squash are available that ensure a legacy of non-genetic manipulation. Dark Star Zucchini and Yellow Crookneck Squash are both available as organic seeds and plants.
Both hot and sweet peppers are widely grown for organic markets and also available as organic seed for home gardening. Look for the "USDA Certified Organic" label on seed packets for assurance that no nitrate fertilizer was used on the product. Cal Wonder Bell Pepper is an heirloom variety that is often available at farmers markets that sell organic produce. All types of peppers are prolific plants with high yields and are easily grown at home.
Beans of all varieties are popular organic vegetables. The Baccicia Snap Bean is an heirloom Italian bush bean that comes to harvest in only 60 days and also grows well in partial shade. Beans are very easy to grow in children's gardens, giving a high yield for little effort. Children learn organic growing practices by starting with easy plants, such as beans.