Sharing with bugs

I have passed my one year anniversary with the organic farm that delivers a box of produce for me to a neighborhood drop spot once a week.  In that year I’ve learned to eat and enjoy quite a few beneficial vegetables that are new to me.

I learned another thing in this year, and it has to do with bugs.

I’m basically a city girl.  I grew up in a big city, and my husband and I raised our family in a big city.  We have retired just outside of a small city, and we feel like we are “in the country,” but in reality we are quite civilized.  This means that most of my life I have bought groceries at the grocery store.  Produce at the grocery store is sold by eye appeal.  Are the apples shiny? Is the lettuce green?  Are the green beans stringy?

I never thought about it until I started getting deliveries from the organic farm, but the produce in grocery stores is the pick of the crop.  The malformed carrots go into a machine that shapes them into “baby carrots.”  The ugly spinach and green beans go to the canning factories.  The bruised apples become applesauce.  When you shop at a  grocery store for your whole life, you assume that fruit and vegetables are uniform and perfect.

One of the first things I noticed was that the beet greens from the organic farm had holes in them.  I may be a city girl, but I knew that bugs had been eating them.  I was not going to throw away beet greens, my favorite greens, because some little buggy mouths had been on them.  I triple wash my produce from the grocery store, and I triple wash my produce from the organic farm.  I ate and enjoyed the beet greens.

I began to notice that bugs seem to have preferences.  I have never seen collard greens or kale that have been eaten by bugs.  But I have never received Swiss Chard or Kohlrabi greens from the organic farm that didn’t have noticeable bug damage.

Rarely do I find bugs in grocery store lettuce.  But when I get Romaine from the organic farm, each piece must be rinsed separately.  Little gnats and flies are living between the leaves.  I’ve learned to plunge lettuce and spinach into a big bucket of water and let them soak overnight.  The next morning the dirt and bugs rinse off so much easier – and the crispness is restored to the lettuce.

I was doing ok with all of that, but in December and January I began to receive sweet potatoes almost every week.  Sweet potatoes are beneficial for me, but avoid for my husband.  That’s ok, I love them and was more than willing to eat them all.  But as I got ready to cook the first ones, I noticed little black holes in the skin.  I cut off the little holes and found big black spots underneath.  It appeared that a bug had eaten through the skin and enjoyed a big helping of sweet potato.  I cut away all of the black spots.

Then one day I was called out of the kitchen while I was trimming sweet potatoes.  When I returned a bug was crawling on my counter.  I looked at the bug, and I looked at the beneficial sweet potato.  I got out my knife and cut a little deeper into the buggy parts and cooked the potatoes.

This does not happen with every sweet potato from the organic farm, but it is not uncommon.  It appears that the 40 degree temperature in my refrigerator doesn’t deter the bugs at all.  They continue to munch away.

The city girl side of me still cringes when this happens.  But another part of me wonders, what do they do to grocery store vegetables so that even the bugs don’t eat them?

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