Opining today…Agree or disagree…Ugly characters in photos…A year ago, a moonlit night in Tuscany…

This worm was several inches long. It’s a larger version of those we’ve found in our produce when washing it. We found this worm on the bottom of the outdoor garbage bin after trash pickup on Tuesday.  Most likely it was a result of the lettuce and cabbage we dispose of daily, when we make a salad. Most likely, it lingered there on the bottom of the bin thriving on our scraps growing to this size. We didn’t kill it, instead, letting it loose in the tall grass, far from the garden.  Look closely for its antennae. 

Yesterday, while washing lettuce using bottled water poured into a glass pie plate, one leaf at a time, I chuckled when I encountered one bug or worm after another, a few of which were relatively gross-looking as shown in these photos.
Why did I laugh?  It was done so tongue in cheek. We all want bug-free produce without pesticides and yet we cringe over the bugs in our lettuce. 

While in the US, I purchased mostly organic produce. But, I rarely, if ever ran across a bug. Why is that? Simply put, organic farmers use pesticides. If you’ll read this article from the reputable, Scientific American, you’ll see what I mean.

This is a smaller version of the above worm we found at the bottom of the trash bin.  It is exactly as I found it yesterday after removing some of the exterior leaves of the head of lettuce. Notice its antennae also, which is the same or similar worm at a younger stage than as in the above photo. This is “real” organic. 

The number of times I’d purchased organic lettuce from Lakewinds, a Minnesota chain, or Whole Foods, makes me realize how I, like so many was deluding myself in believing we weren’t consuming pesticides of some sort in our nightly salads and plates of vegetables. (80% of the world’s pesticides are used in the US).

Now, as we travel the world wherein many locals no pesticides of any kind are used, bugs galore! They’re everywhere. Isn’t this the way it’s supposed to be?

Are we eating some of these bugs? Most likely the tiny ones that I may miss when cleaning the lettuce or cabbage. I never miss a big worm as shown here. 

This is the glass plate I used yesterday, filled with bottled water to rinse the lettuce leaves as I frequently changed the water.  This worm, another variety, was also on an inside leaf of the lettuce as were many of the smaller, less visible insects in this photo.  It certainly makes sense to carefully wash the produce, unless one likes to eat insects and dirt. 

Then again, there is lots of talk (yikes, in the unreliable media) about our future diet consisting in part of consuming insects as a source of protein. Here is an article from National Geographic on this topic.

So, the question I ask of all of us, vehemently against pesticides of any kind…are we willing to handle the insects that come with “real” organic produce as we’ve experienced as we’ve traveled the world? For us, the answer is yes.

Although I make a disgusted look on my face when I rinse away the grosser looking worms and such, a look I can hardly displace with a smile, I know that eating this way is best for us when all is said and done.

Should we ever live back in the US, we’ll have no option to consume some form of pesticides when even the local farmers are using certain products to some degree. 

For several years, in our old lives, we purchased a weekly vegetable box of “organic” vegetables called a CSA (community supported agriculture) from local farmers, oddly cousins of Tom, neatly placed in a reusable cardboard box to be returned each week to be refilled. 

At the time, I felt warm and fuzzy buying our produce this way, tenderly handling each item with love and care.  Now as I look back, I rarely found a bug and if so, it just flew into the box as I transported it home. 

Since we left the US, we’ve found tons of bugs in our produce in every country in which we purchased from local farms. Although, in some countries, few insects were found in the mass-produced bagged or loose veggies from the grocery stores. 

But, here in Madeira, whether from the grocery store or the produce truck guy, there are tons of bugs. This makes me smile, not while I’m cleaning it of course, but while we’re eating it.

I don’t mean to burst the bubble of those of you in the US and other countries where organic isn’t truly pesticide-free, trying to do your best to buy organic. Doing so, your still way ahead of the game as stated in the above article. 

Our lettuce, ready to break up into bite-sized pieces, after it’s been carefully cleaned. 

How does one, up the ante and get the “real deal”?  Search for local farmers, asking what they use for pesticides, researching the products they use to ensure it is acceptable to you. Purchase their produce and see for yourself. Bugs or no bugs? No bugs? Pesticides are used. 

I’ve yet to find one head of lettuce or cabbage without a definitive sign of insects; holes from their eating the produce or, the insects themselves, small or large. It’s clearly evident.

Forty percent of the US population cares about buying some, if not all, of their produce from organic farms. This matters a lot of us. 

Sure, at the grocery store, here in Madeira we can buy imported bagged lettuce and cabbage. No bugs in those bags, I assure you. We don’t buy those bags or any bagged vegetables for that matter. But, at our local supermarket, Continente, a Portuguese chain, the loose produce has zillions of bugs.

As I shop, I search for tomatoes without holes which is no guarantee that there won’t be a worm hiding inside chomping away at my pre-guacamole. Speaking of which, I haven’t found insects in avocados, due to their tough skin. The little buggers don’t want to work that hard when just a garden row away, lettuce, cabbage, and other loose-leaf and penetrable produce await their invasion.

Cabbage we’ll be using today. The huge outside leaves have been removed and yet insects remain at the easier to reach the stem. Seldom, do we find insects deep into the leaves, due to the density of a head of cabbage.  In any case, a good washing is necessary before we slice the leaves into coleslaw sized bits. Lately, for variety, we’ve been making salads with half cabbage and lettuce, adding diced carrots, making our own dressing. 

So there it is, my disappointment, hopefully not too negative, opining on the reality of true organic produce.  Sadly, the food industry and the media have been deluding us for way too long for the safety of our food. The responsibility lies within each of us to research to discover our own stance and stick with it to the best of our ability. 

When I see my dear Facebook friends sharing articles about GMO (that’s for another day) and pesticide-free farming, I simply ask this question: Look at today’s photos of insects on our lettuce and ask yourself if you’d be willing to deal with these types of insects every day. If you are, you can take your stance, grow your own produce, or find a local farmer who won’t use any pesticides. 

Otherwise, I choose not to complain and love those bugs even those as shown above with those ugly antennae.

Note: Exciting news tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Photo from one year ago today, June 25, 2013:

Moon over the hills of Tuscany a year ago today. For details from that date including a great photo of Tom, please click here.