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I buy organic broccoli and sometimes it is infested with tiny gray or black bugs that cannot be washed off. How do we feel about this?

I buy organic because I don't want the pesticides, but that also doesn't mean I can stomach eating 2-30 bugs on every bite of broccoli. Has this happened to you? What do you do?

asked by CMTerp about 3 years ago
14 answers 40923 views
added about 3 years ago

I find I have the same problem with cauliflower and tight head vegetables, e.g. cabbage and sometimes brussels sprouts.

I cut veggies like that in individual bite sized pieces and soak in water for about 30 minutes. It loosens up the bugs, and you might have to do this more than once.


Sam is a trusted home cook.

added about 3 years ago

Put a bit of white vinegar in the soaking liquid. This is good for all veggies and proven superior to any commercial 'veggie wash' product.

That with some ice will also help dehydrate wilted lettuce that's on the verge of going bad.

added about 3 years ago

this happened to me recently--i saw all the bugs in the blanching liquid of some broccolini. i inspected the veggies, which after the blanching were free of bugs. i ate, i lived! i think it's fine.

added about 3 years ago

Yes - plunge in a deep, cold bath and shake off those bugs. I once found a live, tiny worm crawling through my broccoli - after it had been steamed!

added about 3 years ago

You can try adding some salt along with the vinegar to the water you use to wash/soak the vegetables. Thorough inspection before buying helps, but is not always practical. I'm sure we've all eaten more extra "protein" than we thought and have survived! Wonder if bugs count if you're vegetarian...

added about 3 years ago

The organic produce people at my farmer's market recommend soaking in salt water to get rid of the little bugs. It's a little weird to watch them floating to the top, but I guess that's why we buy organic right? it's kind of nice to know that bugs can survive in the fields.


hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

added about 3 years ago

My parents would always soak the homegrown broccoli and cauliflower in salt water to kill the cabbage worms & other insects. Seemed to work well.

added about 3 years ago

I'm pretty sure those are aphids, and they were the bane of my existence when I was a farmer. They are gross and they ooze this gross sticky substance and they just suck. But I ended up eating a lot of them and I'm still alive.

added over 2 years ago

Just started doing research because I've recently returned broccoli twice to my local Whole Foods market due to bugs. I never really looked so closely, but my son just started to eat broccoli, so I have to cut the crowns into much smaller pieces. The first time I saw the bugs, I thought maybe my eyes were playing tricks on me because I wasn't wearing my glasses... but then I realized that the entire under side of the head was COVERED in tiny, grey, bugs (and they were moving... yuck!). I try to buy organic for most things, but I've heard that there are conventional fruits and veggies that are ok to eat and broccoli is on that list. I like the idea of organic, but I really prefer my produce to be free of bugs.

OMG, linzarella just pointed out the sticky substance thing and I've noticed that I sometimes find it very difficult to clean my pots when I blanch my broccoli because there's a ridiculously thick film around the inside edge... it all makes perfect sense now. How long have I been eating these bugs??? GROSS!!!

added over 2 years ago

I have a big organic home garden and grow broccoli. It's true that bugs adore it. (I agree with Linzarella--sounds like aphids. Cabbage worms, green and fat, are even worse.). However, I am not inclined to eat bugs, even if the occasional gross cabbage worm does slip by. There are perfectly acceptable insecticides that organic growers can use to cut down on the bug population. A concerned grower also has the option of using row covers if infestations are a problem. Sure, the occasional bug or imperfection can be present, but I wouldn't buy again from that grower. At the very least, I'd point out the problem. If the grower is indifferent, you have your answer---buy from someone else.

added over 2 years ago

I would just follow Sam1148's advice. Sure, bugs are gross I guess, but they're just trying to live too. As long as the produce looks fresh and green and not eaten half to death, I don't think there's a real problem. As consumers, we should all be aware that when we buy from small organic growers, there are going to be some minor inconveniences and bugs are one of those. From a little experience working on farms and experience in my own garden, I know that farming is an enterprise fraught with tasks and little emergencies. On a daily basis, there's so much to be done that sometimes (read: all the time) you get behind and can't make time to spray or dust with organic insecticides, and the crops can take a beating.
I also read a recent article by Harold McGee about how herbs that have been munched on by insects have a better flavor because the plant's response to stress is to send out certain chemicals (I know I'm butchering this explanation, but bear with me) that make the plants taste better to us. I don't know if this holds true for veggies, but it's an interesting thing to keep in mind.

added over 2 years ago

No one who values his or her reputation as a grower should be selling produce infested with aphids, which would give way to a powerful stream of water from the garden hose. In addition, insects are often drawn to weak or stressed plants, organic or not. The healthier the plant, the less likely it is to harbor an infestation. The occasional slug or earworm or other insect is one thing, broccoli stems coated with aphids is quite another.

added over 2 years ago

Cut the broccoli into individual branches and soak in a sinkful of cold water with SALT in. The bugs will die and sink to the bottom. :)

added over 2 years ago

Just remember those little bugs are a good source of protein.