By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Jan 24, 2009 at 11:56 AM

Organic food is expensive, and it's a damn shame. And in a recession, it's an even bigger bummer for people whose budgets are stretched, even for staples like food.

Health wise, the food production industry is a backward system that favors efficiency and quantity over quality. But until industry standards shift, we all will pay way more to eat food that is totally free from crazy artificial additives and growth hormones.

But other than a potential health risk, what else are we sacrificing by opting for the cheap stuff?

Not wanting your produce or ingredients scoured in chemical-laden pesticides in obvious. And the eco-reasons for supporting organics are many. But my question is, can you taste the difference between organic food and non-organic food?

Some people swear by organic tomatoes, or spinach or spring mix and make it a priority to remain natural with those products. Honestly, I couldn't pass a blind taste test.

But recently I've noticed a major difference with apples. Whether it's Fuji or Gala or whatever, the organically grown varieties are so ridiculously sweet, big and satisfying, they make "regular" apples taste like duds. I don't think I'll ever be able to go back.

The same holds true for garlic. I was a member of a community supported agriculture (CSA) farm last summer and the garlic we received from June through late fall was unmatched by any I buy from Pick 'n Save or even Whole Foods. Actually, the organic garlic I purchase from Whole Foods tends to be quite small and even more difficult to peel than garlic already is, and I'm anxiously awaiting this season's harvest.

But what's the general consensus here? Is organic food something to stick by even in rough economic times, or can we survive on "conventional" produce until the market stabilizes?

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”