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Bugs in broccoli

I have just started buying organic broccoli to make baby food. I have noticed that there are LOTS of bugs in the florets. They are poppyseed size, along with what I think are eggs. Is that normal??? I have tried soaking the florets but it doesn't even get half the bugs out. Are there any tricks? I have already thrown out 3 or 4 heads of broccoli because of the bugs.

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  1. I've noticed this in my organic cauliflower. I resorted to bioling it first thing (10 min). I remove the entire head, drain it, then proceed to cut it up - dilligently looking for creepy crawlies of course. What I have found is that the roling boil gets to all the nooks and crannies, and all i'm left with are dead bugs floating separatly in the remaining water. Good luck.

    1. just soak in salt water - submerged - poof - all gone. I have always done that wit hboth broccoli and cauliflower

      1. Salt water works mostly but you still have to search for bugs that are stuck in small places.

        You may find this problem disappears after your first post broccoli diaper change - one whiff and you'll simply never feed the baby broccoli again and all will be well!

        2 Replies
          1. re: enbell

            I guess there is something to be said for the non-organic broccoli....

        1. they are just aphids.

          I blast them out with my dish sprayer and cook the broccoli.

          You don't see them or taste them; no big deal.

          4 Replies
          1. re: toodie jane

            Hate to be a buzz-kill, but more than one head of organic cauliflower ha had bigger, black-colored residents...clearly NOT APHIDS. Sometimes I wonder why I'm willing to pay more for organic products, I suppose the answer could be I'm simply paying for the extra protein :)

            1. re: enbell

              aphids do come in many colors from blue-green, green, white, pink, and greyish-black, and some can be pretty healthy-sized buggers, about the size of a 'fully- inflated' sesame seed. Not many hard-shelled insect attack the brassicas. Could it have been this guy, 'bout 1/4" long?


              I always look at it as I'm paying extra to do *without* the poisons. That would be these:


              1. re: toodie jane

                Probably was that guy after - but in between the size of a sesame seed and a sunflower seed. Because weeding through the current thread on what chowhounds do for a living would be insane at this point, did I miss your entry an an entymologist :)? I too know that broccoli and cauliflower are lower priority items when it comes to organic which is why I have direct comparison examples. The only bug experiences I have had have been with organic cauliflower, on two separate occasions, that's the only reason I brought it up. I prefer to buy from the source directly when I can. While I'm not in an agricultural wasteland, this is still not possible 100% of the time. Thank you for all the info!

              2. re: enbell

                Organic products are nutritionally equal to non-organic.
                You have made a choice that you don't want products raised using certain types of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. Organic farmers can use products as well, as long as they are from an approved list, so you should always wash organic products extremely well as some of the products, such as sulfur, are things you would not wish to consume. They carry warning labels on the containers even though they are approved for organic farming and gardening.

            2. As caulifower and broccoli go, they're faily low in pesticides as it is so if I'm skimping on organics, that's what I'd cut.


              But, anything grown in the ground can have bugs in it. When I worked for a couple of large agricultural producers (conventional produce), we'd get so many calls from people who complained about it. It's just part of living with nature.;-)

              12 Replies
              1. re: chowser

                yes, it's all relative. Still, carbaryl (Sevin) isn't koolaid.

                Conventional spinach from the Salinas region is heavily sprayed with some very potent fungicides because of an nasty wilt that plagues it in that region. Definitely a veggie to buy pesticide-free.

                Celery is very heavily sprayed in the Santa Maria growing region. Cutting celery is considered the "entry level" job for newly arrived farm workers--most farm workers don't want to work it because of the high concentrations of pesticides. This from a farm worker friend of mine.

                Bottom line, I buy pesticide free from local growers, or grow my own, and accept the bugs. Rinse everything.

                1. re: toodie jane

                  Well... I won't drink koolaid, either.;-) I buy organic produce (as local as possible, since I don't have the benefit of being in the salad bowl) in season for produce that are high in pesticides. The problem spinach growers have is that people want perfect leaves. Hard to do with leaves so they spray the heck out of it. I can live with the bugs and don't mind sharing a leaf w/ a few bug bites.:-)

                  I think celery is also lower in that it's easier to cut than something like cauliflower which is highly skilled. Removing the outside greens is hard, especially w/out hurting the cauliflower. I don't remember what the difference in pay scale was but it was pretty significant about 10 years ago.

                  1. re: chowser

                    ....c 1990 California Agriculture Journal....new chemical-resistant race of downey mildew threatens Salinas spinach crops....it was about having to till in the entire crop, not about cosmetic damage.

                    1. re: toodie jane

                      Interesting--thanks. I'd heard about pesticides as cosmetics control but will read more about this. I wonder how the organics get around it.

                      1. re: chowser

                        Most organic spinach I've seen was grown in greenhouses - maybe that's the solution to the cosmetic issues!

                        1. re: lupaglupa

                          This has been such a short but informative discussion. I never thought in detail how organic spinach was grown, and whether it's something sustainable to eat in large quantities. I'm going to have to look into this--thanks.

                          1. re: lupaglupa

                            Cosmetics! We worked with Vietnamese rice farmers who sprayed pesticides for early season defoliators. When they actually compared sprayed and un-sprayed plots, yields were the same. Many kept spraying. Asked why, they replied: "If I don't spray my fields look ugly and my neighbors say I'm a bad farmer". And they were talking about the look of the plants before grain formation--nothing to to with the rice itself.

                  2. re: chowser

                    I don't know about US production, but Brassicas like cauliflower and broccoli in Asia and Latin America are produced with a lot of pesticides. The insects in the organic are pretty harmless.

                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      Good distinction--thanks for pointing that out. I try to buy local produce or at least produced in the US but it's good to keep in mind. Thanks!

                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                        Most insects are pretty harmless. Malaria mosquitos and a few others aside...
                        Some are even beneficial.

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          Change to "...most insects you would encounter in your vegetables..." OK?

                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                            Insects have an undeserved bad reputation. Just reading through this thread, we find people who throw perfectly good food away rather than wash off a few harmless hitch-hiking bugs. Most aren't even dirty or disease carriers. Most don't bite. Even tarantulas have a hard time chomping down. Large numbers are beneficial and some farmers encourage those to control problem pests or pollinate crops. Little kids love them but adults go yuck!
                            This shouldn't be that big a deal. The bugs like good food as much as we do. Wash them off if they're still around.

                    2. sorry, jfood for the contrarian point of view.

                      bugs on brocolii, brocolli in disposal. no ups no extras.

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: jfood

                        ditto. won't eat bugs unless prepared properly ;)

                        1. re: mojoeater

                          I once was eating my leftovers of broccoli and cavatelli from a restuarant and only then noticed a sauteed catepiller. YIKES! I'm very careful about cleaning my broccoli and won't ever eat at that restaurant again.

                        2. re: jfood

                          Jfood: Even if you encounter the bug while you're washing and prepping your veggies?

                          1. re: enbell

                            Yes, call it crazy or bugaphobic, but bugs are not welcome inside casa jfood. this comes with the full support of mrs jfood and little jfoods.

                            1. re: jfood

                              now, jfood, I usually think that you are possibly the most sensible man who posts on CH but really!!! When your produce is picked, they clean it in the fields to get off the dirt and the bugs. So they miss a few. Can't you just finish the job?
                              Just wash the critters down the drain with the dirt when you clean your produce and get on with it. Don't be a girlie-man as Ah-nuld would say..

                              1. re: MakingSense


                                jfood prepares food for three ladies who are EXTREMELY squeemish about bugs of any sort. jfood can be in the garden trimming roses and a scream comes from inside to kill a spider. afte double decades of "that look" from the true bosses of the house, the buggy brocoli goes down the drain.

                                if jfood knew there would be no chance of being seen, the produce would be washed and served. but the down side can turn the most macho into a girlie-man.

                                1. re: jfood

                                  HAHA. I agree. If I find just a bug in my broccoli, that's it - I'm not going to even hold it long enough to determine if any more of its little friends are in there. In fact, that might be the end of dinner, blechhh. All the nooks in crannies in broccoli!

                                  1. re: jfood

                                    Wow, a bit overzealous in my opinion, and for my budget to be honest; but for those of us who consider chilvary an unfortunately dying practice, I do believe you provide the perfect example of chilvarous vegetable prep in the kitchen :)

                                    1. re: jfood

                                      Jfood, who's going to break it to your New Orleans-bound little jfood about the trophy-size bugs in that fine City? They are the stuff of legends!
                                      Most of us just squash 'em with our hands. Pick it off the salad it just dropped into and dig in. They're everywhere in South Louisiana.

                                      1. re: MakingSense

                                        just forwarded this little tid-bit to the little one. fortunately when jfood is not around the kids seem to have more gumption.

                                        1. re: jfood

                                          They always do. I'm laughing out loud!!!! Maybe she can start cleaning the veggies in your house. You'll save on the food budget. Can't believe you throw out perfectly good stuff because of a little critter.

                                          1. re: MakingSense

                                            A lot of people in this world don't even have broccoli to eat. Bugs are a part of fruits and veggies. As long as they aren't cooked with the things I eat and as long as they don't touch my cooked food it is fine by me. For the record, I hate insects besides butterflies and lady bugs. Everything else makes me squeemish. I get tingly all over just thinking about them..gross!

                          2. Wow, I didn't realize that my little question would spark such interesting conversations.

                            I totally understand that bugs are part of being organic. There are always bugs in my spinach. And that's ok because I have no problem getting them out. But with the broccoli, I was literally scraping every little nook and cranny with my fingernail because there are just so many of them. And they didn't even all come out after I boiled the broccoli. I know they are just extra protein but insects are not exactly on the list of good introductory food for an infant :) I will definitely try the salt water trick next time.

                            But thanks again everyone for your insights.

                            1. Wow. This thread is an interesting read. We eat a lot of organic produce, from our CSA, the farmers' market, and a local grocery store. I don't think I've ever noticed bugs in my broccoli or cauliflower but it sounds like it's pretty pervasive. Now I'm wondering how much extra protein I've been eating. Maybe it's good that I'm not a zealot about my vegetarianism. Just checked today's CSA shares. I don't see a single bug on the broccoli. Do I just need new glasses?

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: debbiel

                                I thought I was the only one who hasn't seen bugs in my broccoli. I buy from my local farmers market, Safeway and Whole Paycheck, whoops, I mean Whole Foods. Am I missing something too?

                                1. re: debbiel

                                  There are many pesticides that are allowed even under organic certification rules. The good producers use them judiciously. Organic doesn't mean that they use nothing at all.
                                  Well run farms that aren't certified organic can usually get by without them most of the time. Too many farms and home gardeners spray because they always have or they spray because they see a few insects and get scared that they'll take over.

                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                    What? Which pesticides??? Bio-repellents like neem? Or what?

                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                      Sure, Sam. Like neem, rotenone, and other organic and biopesticides. Just because it's natural or organic doesn't mean it's not toxic. These are still used with caution by responsible growers.
                                      People buying organic produce still need to wash them well.
                                      More information from Clemson University http://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheets/HG...

                                      1. re: MakingSense

                                        An entomolgist, plant pathologist, and I were looking at the botanical pesticide garden outside of Hanoi a number of years ago. Dale says, "Look at that *&&*& neem, its been completely defoliated by the bugs!". We did a lot of bio-efficacy trials, but found little that worked and nothing that humans should worry about.

                                        And I know you like to jump on details: exactly what I'm talking about are any of the many botanicals that have been tried by small farmers the world over and not about labs isolating pesticidal compounds from plant materials.

                                        But you're saying that there are bio-pesticides in use? I've seen a lot of bio-repellents in developing countries, but...

                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                          This field is growing exponentially. Money magazine had an article last month about the R&D and sales as consumers are demanding "green" chemicals not only for home gardens and lawns but for agricultural use. I use the stuff in my own garden.
                                          As this thread shows, we all want good veggies, increasingly organic, but don't want bugs and they want their produce to look good.

                                          I don't think consumers ask nearly enough questions It's easy to be misled by advertisers, politicians and special interests. Organic doesn't that mean nothing was used on the field or the plants themselves. A lot of people seem to believe that. There are new biochemicals being developed constantly to improve the productivity of organic producers and the quality of what they sell.
                                          They are so numerous that I just goggled the field and picked one of many in the agricultural field at random http://www.biomor.com/default.htm
                                          The Devil is often in the details and I was taught to question details, not just jump on them. There's usually some fine print...

                                    2. re: MakingSense

                                      I definitely wash all of our produce well, but I also have a lot of trust in the farmers who run our CSA and those we buy from at the farmers market. The grocery produce, tho, is anybody's guess I suppose.

                                    3. re: debbiel

                                      I never see them in the stuff from my CSA - the farmer uses row covers a lot to keep the bugs off.

                                    4. the little black poppy sized things....are NOT bugs...but the end product(poop) of a catapillar or green worm if you will and they are very hard to detect because they are the same color as the broccoli....... so if you see "poppy seeds" in your broccoli and cauliflower the perpetrator is lurking !! sorry to gross anyone out but nothing worse than sitting down to dinner and finding it then!! it has happened to me!

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: djski754

                                        As a gardener I second that...if they're the size of a poppy seed, don't move, have no exoskeleton and you can't tell what bug it is, it's probably poop.

                                        I would change your source, like that other poster pointed out, if they use row covers you get a lot less damage because the cabbage moths can't land and lay their eggs, which hatch, and then poop on your broccoli. Or switch to Broccoli Raab so that you don't have the tight head that is acting like a bug hiding place.

                                        And yeah you're just paying for decreased pesticide exposure and a healthier environment for everyone...if anything you're going to eat a lot more bugs buying organic. But it's OK!! Extra protein.

                                        1. re: LaurenTX2CA

                                          This is fascinating to me because just 2 weeks ago I found bugs, or worse, not just one or two, but a bunch in some broccoli I bought at the farmers market. At first I thought it was my imagination... I don't know why because they were everywhere. I cooked the broccoli and I have to say I threw it out. I eat broccoli almost every week and this was the first time it had ever happened to me. Ewwwwwwww

                                          1. re: LaurenTX2CA

                                            I can live with the bugs, too. Maybe the extra protein lowers the glycemic values.;-)

                                            At the same time, if you (general "you") are bug phobic and constantly throwing out entire crowns of organic broccoli, it's just a lot of unnecessary waste. At some point, it might be better to buy the precut broccoli, with a greater likelihood of the bugs being washed away before it gets to your house than to waste a lot of broccoli.

                                        2. I soak all my garden vegetables in a large bowl of water that I thoroughly salt. Fifteen to 20 minutes later, the you will see the bugs float away with the water.