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?

  • Posted by: CMTerp
  • July 25, 2011


Monilou August 4, 2022
Yes...this has totally changed my stomach on eating organic broccoli 🥦.....ive soaked it rinsed it under water added vinager and drowned the broccoli before cooking and still have alot of those bugs floating after a good boil and its like I just want to buy none Organic .....I mean I'm either dealing with pesticides or huge amounts of bugs 🤢
Strong C. July 9, 2020
I literally am here doing research because I just purchased some organic broccoli yesterday from Whole Foods. I washed it last night b4 putting in fridge. I blanche it 2day and all I see is a gazillion brown dots and I fear it's bugs. I start scooping them out and it's endless. I got my flashlight. Definitely bugs. So stubborn that even after I poured water out of pot, they're still there.
JaydeeDaley August 11, 2019
I'm very disappointed by the quality of organic broccoli. Why can't they make it bug-free? Waitrose has the audacity to sell broccoli for £1.65 more than double the price of nonorganic but when I look closely I can see the bugs.

It's completely unacceptable. The growers aren't doing their job properly. They should at least charge less for organic and then make it clear to people 'buy at your own risk but at least it's cheap'. I bin all the broccoli infested with bugs or return it to the shop for a refund. Organic farmers: You have to step up and find a way to make organic broccoli bug-free or find another profession.
Adam D. April 25, 2020
They can make it bug-free, with pesticides or GMO... if you want to buy organic broccoli that hasn't had these used on it then you run the risk of having bugs. It's pretty simple. If they made "organic" broccoli that was bug-free, it wouldn't be "organic" anymore. You can't have your cake and eat it too in this scenario.
Linn June 2, 2012
Just remember those little bugs are a good source of protein.
Monilou August 4, 2022
MicronCat May 27, 2012
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. :)
Lillian C. July 29, 2020
I always find the (variety of) bugs securely tucked way deep in the branches of the florets. They're always dead, but being firmly ensnared within the maze (of florets) seems to keep them from getting anything like out of the broccoli, much less sinking to the bottom. Am I giving them more credit than I should?
Monilou August 4, 2022
Ok so salt.....ive only tired vinegar and it didn't work ....thanks for the tip ill try this next 🙂

Voted the Best Reply!

mainecook61 May 26, 2012
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.
JaydeeDaley August 11, 2019
I agree; the growers aren't doing their job properly.
Strong C. July 9, 2020
I agree. I've been cooking a long time. Like almost 50 years and I've never seen anything like what I saw today. That's some bull that I have to accept bugs to eat a better product. What an oxymoron.
petitbleu May 26, 2012
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.
mainecook61 May 26, 2012
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.
yamamama May 26, 2012
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!!!
Strong C. July 9, 2020
It was Whole Foods for me, too. Cal-Organic is the brand. I was like you... wth... I'd never noticed that and they were endless. But that broccoli was already unappealing to me. The only reason I have it is because I used delivery. I got a refund.
Asmik A. August 16, 2020
OMG, it seams me and my baby have been eating this bugs with broccoli. Is it safe? Do I have to worry about any health issues?
Monilou August 4, 2022
I'm sure your baby will be fine ...but do try from now on to clean the broccoli better 🤔 I had the very same thought when I found d out and well at that point it was too late but I'm trying to clean the broccoli as well as I can ...someone mentioned using salt and water to soak the broccoli before eating or cooking
linzarella July 26, 2011
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.
hardlikearmour July 26, 2011
My parents would always soak the homegrown broccoli and cauliflower in salt water to kill the cabbage worms & other insects. Seemed to work well.
Ophelia July 26, 2011
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.
Helen's A. July 26, 2011
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...
latoscana July 25, 2011
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!
the P. July 25, 2011
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.
Sam1148 July 25, 2011
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.
ImmaEatThat July 25, 2011
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.

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