Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Occasional Worm

Next week, if the forecasts are accurate, we will have five days of temperatures in the 90s. I'm trying not to think about how that will make me feel, but am focusing instead on the good things it will bring: ripe tomatoes, a significant boost to the little eggplants, a slowing down in the growth of the lawn grass. But the heat will also bring cabbage worms.

The pretty white cabbage butterflies have been flitting around my broccoli for a while now, laying their eggs, and the hot weather will result in the hatching of the inch-long caterpillars, which are of a bluish, grayish green that perfectly mimics the color of broccoli. That perfect mimicry means that you cannot see the cabbage worms...until they appear on your plate.

Mind you, I not only wash my broccoli before cooking it, I soak it for an hour in salty water. This is supposed to kill the worms and make them loosen their grip on the florets, and sometimes it works. But when I serve the washed, brined and cooked broccoli on our plates, the occasional worm (now cooked to a highly visible pale yellow) falls out.

Those are the easy ones. But there are some so tiny that I am sure we eat them. I can't say that I relish the thought of ingesting unintended proteins with my veggies, and the vast majority of the American public would find the idea perfectly revolting. Any purveyor of broccoli to the market had better make sure that his florets are free from even a homeopathic dose of cabbage worm, or face the rage of the buying public.

But I am not the buying public, at least where most of my food is concerned. I would rather chance the occasional encounter with a worm in the broccoli, or a speck of dirt splashed by the rain on my spinach, than eat food that has been purified and perfected by who knows what means, food that carries in it only a dim memory of the earth.

I believe that as a species we have evolved to consume a bit of grit with our lettuce (if chickens need grit, why shouldn't we?). That speck of soil in your salad probably carries important nutrients that you can't get in a bottled supplement. And as far as the occasional live stowaway, what better guarantee of freshness could there be?

9 comments :

  1. I'm always amazed by how many little critters I find floating in the sink after I wash my garden lettuce. I take it as a sign of healthy food!

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  2. I once made baked stuffed artichokes and when I took them out of the oven saw a poor, baked, worm on the bottom of the baking pan that must have crawled out of the artichoke and tried to save itself by crawling across the baking pan. It only made it a couple of inches. It was a while before I ate artichokes after that.

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  3. Diane, it is!

    Dona, but they were healthy artichokes....

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  4. "if chickens need grit, why shouldn't we?"
    It's because they have crops to grind their food, while we have teeth.

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  5. (Of course, I meant gizzard, not crop.)

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  6. Anonymous, so true. I was making a joke, but perhaps I've been identifying too closely with my hens these days.

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  7. i don't mind grit in my lettuce but i do draw the line at worms.

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  8. Signs of reality.

    I'm getting a little afraid of inviting you to dinner, though.

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  9. But I eat everything--even if it doesn't have worms.

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