I am quickly discovering one of the lesser-publicized aspects of self-sufficiency, and I’m not liking it one bit!  I don’t know how to deal with it.  Bugs, worms, creepy crawlies, ickiness, webs, cocoons, microscopic legs, wings, and beady little eyes.  IN. MY. FOOD!  YUCK!!  I am getting the shivers thinking about it. 

OK, so I always kinda thought of myself as a farm girl.  Not much grosses me out.  I am willing to sample a boiled cow-tongue, go out in the middle of the night to tend to critters, and cobwebs don’t bother me (too much).  Recently, though I am realizing I have some very deep issues I must deal with.  And soon.  I knew it was going to be tough to eat a rabbit we had raised or to eat a beef tongue sandwich.  It was different.  But I overcame and I did it, and I was proud of myself.  I admit, I do have major issues with roaches that I will probably never overcome.  Therefore, I intentionally chose to retire in a location where the roaches were generally no larger than my fingernails.  I could handle that.  But this?….

We get the vast majority of our produce through a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm.  The produce is entirely organic, so it has never seen pesticides.  I like this idea.  It’s natural, just the way God made it.  However, I am now learning there is a reason for pesticides.  Simply put, IT KILLS PESTS.  I knew this little fact.  I have studied it thoroughly, and have developed all sorts of plans for controlling the pests at our little farm when we get going.  (Whether any of those plans will actually work is yet to be determined).What I didn’t know, though, was just how bad the pest problem could be on organic, pesticide-free, fresh food!   I got the full picture (at least, I REALLY hope it was the full picture!) last night, as I was up to my elbows in a fresh delivery of broccoli stalks.  I had ordered the broccoli (a bit over 20 lbs. of it) to freeze for winter, when the CSA season is over.   Mind you, this broccoli was beautiful and perfect.  Most of it was bright green, with just a hint of reddish-purple in the some of the florets.  It was the type of extra healthy broccoli that you just wanted to dip into some ranch dressing and pop in your mouth!  

I took it out of the box, and decided to give it a good rinse in a sink full of water and chop it up to prepare for freezing.  Well, I quickly realized my water had odd ..um…. things floating in it.  I also noticed that the cute little green leaves that grow on the stalks were falling off  with some ease in the sink.  Then, on closer inspection, I realized it wasn’t “things” and “leaves.”  There were HUNDREDS of little, grey, mite-looking bugs hiding in the florets, falling off in the water, and crawling around my sink.  The leaves were, in fact, little green caterpillars.  I have the chills just remembering my horror!  I quickly changed the water in the sink.  And more fell out of the soaking broccoli stalks.   UUGH! 

So, I did my best to disassociate from my bug-hating brain and the thought that my hands had to enter that water and work with that broccoli.  Over the course of several hours, I rinsed each stalk a minimum of 3 times–once to get the worst of the infestations and caterpillars off, then cut it up and put it into a bucket where I massaged the florets to attempt to get more bugs off, then drained, strained, and rinsed under the faucet to try get more bugs off.  As I went through this process, I discovered that the bugs had a definite preference for the tighter, denser florets, the tightest of which would have countless bugs and some type of related sacs just filling up the little areas between the leaves.  Although this was only visible on extremely close inspection of an otherwise perfect floret, it was bad enough to cause me to toss out far too many florets.  If I wasn’t able to get those bugs out in 3 rinses, one of which included a thorough massage of the florets with my bare hands, than I just couldn’t stomach the idea of eating that piece!

So went my evening.  A job that probably should have only taken about an hour (or less), took me about 3 hours due to my nit-picking (no pun intended) thoroughness.  My husband got a good laugh (he will literally eat ANYTHING, and just considered the uninvited guests to be extra protein on the menu), but mean while, I found myself picking caterpillars and bugs to the point that I started finding them crawling up my arms.  YIKES!  About mid-way through the second hour, I realized my brain had started playing tricks on me, as I was starting to unexplainably itch all over, with the vision that bugs were inside my hair and clothing.  I now fully understand how a person could potentially be driven to insanity. 

It almost happened to me last night!

I am well aware that I didn’t come close to eliminating all the bugs, and I am also well aware that the freezing and cooking processes will kill what remained of them.  Furthermore, I have been well-educated in the laws that allow even commercial food industry to have so many bug and rodent parts per package of food.  I know we eat bugs.  It’s just the idea of KNOWINGLY eating bugs that gets to me.  Am I making sense here? While I am proud to say I did freeze about 5 gallon-sized bags of broccoli for later use, I need advice from you more experienced food-preservers!

Is there a better way to eliminate bugs in a situation like this?  Should I have steamed/blanched the stalks before even bothering to rinse and cut them up?  Those are sticky little critters, and they don’t like to come off easily!  Is it something you eventually just learn to accept?  OH, I am so disgusted right now at the thought of the many critters in my freezer bags, I can’t even think about it!  I am going to have nightmares for weeks, I fear!  I would seriously be reconsidering my self-sufficient, food-producing, farming goals, IF I weren’t already so incredibly committed.  Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!

In the mean time, I am going to go scratch my itches, and then go take a shower.  Again.

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