Eating Worms

Eating worms comes after a journey of introspection and evaluating priorities. Certainly in the beginning I didn’t intend to, but after a lifetime of struggling to protect cabbage and broccoli from insects in a non-chemical manner, I’m at
the brink of desperation. After my no-see-um netting weakened in the sunlight and split in the wind, I’m ready to remove all row covers, come what may. I’m sick of taping up holes chewed by grasshoppers or perforated by grass and creeping jenny growing right through the cover. And I’m sick of the growing pile of fabric that’s no longer fit for covering rows, but too good to throw away.

But one priority will never change. I will never resort to chemicals to battle insects. The only chemicals to reach my garden are drift from nearby fields over which I have no control or forgetting and throwing on the chicken’s bedding straw without remembering it came from a sprayed field.

So if I don’t use chemicals or row-covers, I’m limited to diatomaceous earth which helps, but is not highly effective, especially for flea beetles. That or living with the insects.

Living with the insects means that some years I may have a damaged crop and some years not. It depends on who gets there first. If I plant earlier and my plants survive a killing frost, they will make progress before the insects become a problem. But that is a big IF.

My sister, a fellow gardener, and I were discussing over coffee an article I had read about a group of vegetarian people who were able to meet their vitamin B-12 needs simply by not washing their garden vegetables so squeaky clean. Without intending to eat insects, they did so inadvertently when they ate their greens. The conversation then turned to the little green worms that camp out in the branches of the broccoli florets. It is impossible to get them out by washing in salt water. They stay stuck in the branches. It is tedious to try picking them out, and besides you cannot see them.

And so what harm is there in leaving them? my sister asked. And I thought, yes, what harm indeed? Our preoccupation with removing them causes stress and is probably not necessary. Leaving them is much easier. Besides, they are harmless and actually could be beneficial, supplying us with a tiny amount of  protein and other nutrients such as the much-needed B-12. If we aren’t so fussy, we can trim the worst damage from heads of cabbage and throw the trimmings to the chickens and make sauerkraut out of the rest. If a head escapes damage, we can wrap that for winter storage in the refrigerator. If  not, then we make more sauerkraut. And as for the broccoli, we can add a few chopped onions, shredded cheese, milk or cream, and who’ll see the worms?

I haven’t tried it yet, but I think I’m game. Especially if it means no more row covers!

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