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Are broccoli worms harmful to human health?

i realize the title of this post is a little less appealing than most posts, but i thought i'd ask the community to help me out here.

i got some broccoli at the organic farmers market and found a little green worm. through the help of google i found that they are called cabbage loopers, but i couldn't find out if they were bad for my health or not in case i accidentally consumed one.

i mean, are their eggs bad, like parasites and stuff? could they cause digestive and health problems like other parasites i've read about that affect humans?

i was so icked out i just threw out the rest of the broccoli (which i'm sure i shouldn't have done).

can anyone tell me if it's ok to accidentally eat a green worm?


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  1. Simply - not harmful and the little suckers hold on tight so you can get really good, fresh broccoli at a restaurant and find the things even though the broccoli has been washed really well. And its okay if you eat one of them, it isn't going to produce the little white butterfly in you stomach.

    1. You'll be fine if you eat one of these accidentally.

      In fact, if you've ever eaten any type of processed canned food, you've already eaten much worse.


      3 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        ipsedixit: a practicing Jainist would recoil in horror at your lackadaisical and remiss demeanor.

        OP: ipsedixit and Sam F are both right. and all the tips of the others (plus raw broccoli gives some people gas - although good vitamins)

        remember the boy scout rule when lost in the wilderness and thirsty - one pool of water has algae and the other is crystal clear - which one will kill you?

        if things can grow and thrive, so will you.

        the real worry is: are they well cooked enough that they don't crawl when company is over. THAT would be awkward.

        1. re: hill food

          remember the boy scout rule when lost in the wilderness and thirsty - one pool of water has algae and the other is crystal clear - which one will kill you?

          if things can grow and thrive, so will you.
          This is absolutely not true!

          Stagnant water can have algae and a host of other parasites and bacteria thriving in it. You will not thrive if you drink this.

          The rule in scouts was to look for clear running water. And even then it is best to boil it since even clear running water may contain parasites and bacteria.


          1. re: Porthos

            the point was the clear pool could very well be contaminated with tailings from an old mine up hill. invisible. of course the boil order and even iodine treatment was always in effect with unknown sources (shit we lost so many kids before we figured that one out)

      2. They are harmless to eat, add some vitamins, and are a sign that the broccoli wasn't hit with excess pesticides.

        1. ultra religious Jews wash their fruits and vegetables extremely carefully and excessively to ensure no bugs etc. Broccoli in particular should be parboiled for a minute after careful washing. Some fruits and vegetables are banned (such as raspberries, asparagus) because they 'cannot' be assured of being bug free.

          1. I'm not sure I'd eat it raw, so you might want to cook it first. :-)

            1. I just read in a Culinary Institute textbook that if you soak fresh veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, etc. in cold salt water for a little while the little critters will let go and rinse out easier.

              1 Reply
              1. re: morwen

                We did this all the time when my grandfather grew broccoli. Worked like a charm.

              2. I must say they're pretty durable critters. I found one still wiggling (if slowly) on CSA broccoli that had been in the fridge a week! I dropped him in the compost pail with the rest of the trimmings. Cabbage looper heaven on earth!

                1. My CSA says, due to the wet weather, soak broccoli in salt water for a few minutes to remove any cabbage worms. Then wash the broccoli and prepare as desired.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: gourmanda

                    If the worms will eat the broccoli, then I won't have to.

                  2. Although it's hard for me to be icked out by something with a name as cute as "cabbage looper."

                    1. They're not worms - they're little green caterpillars. They represent no possible danger to human beings whatsoever, even if you accidentally ate one. They're not going to lay eggs until they turn into butterflies and fly away. They're totally harmless, and they're a sign that your produce is chemical-free, because spray would have killed them. Worm are gross, caterpillars are cute. :)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Kajikit

                        Caterpillars and not worms... THIS is the kind of reassurance I needed to hear! Thanks!!! :D

                      2. Not only are they harmless, They are absolutley delectable.I harvested a bunch of them this morning and steamed them with a small broccoli floret. With the broccoli you cant even tell that your eating them. Alone they are like eating little broccoli flavored shrimp. When steemed they firm right up and have a nice snap to them.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: woodwork27

                          Hmm, now I'm wondering if Parsley Worms are tasty partiucaurly ones that have been eating dill or anise.

                          1. re: jumpingmonk

                            Parsley worms are just TOO BIG to miss, imo. Have a feeling you'd KNOW something other than broccoli was in your mouth!?!

                            1. re: kseiverd

                              It also occurs to me (in retrospect) that, given what the osmetium (that orange forked "tongue" they stick out when bothered) SMELLS like, it probably doesn't TASTE any better.

                          2. re: woodwork27

                            woodwork27 is so funny - they disintegrate when you cook them you will never know you ate one but I soak all my veggies in a Big Tupperware bowl with 2 Tbs salt and 1 Cup White vinegar and about a 1 quart of tap water. When the kids are around for fun add two tbs of Baking soda as it with fizz up a with the vinegar reacting. All bugs float to the top of your water pretty quick- skim them off the top and also it crisps up your lettuce and such. Then wash everything off with filtered water. Raw or Cooked makes no difference ZERO bugs.

                          3. Before critters (especially groundhogs) made it IMPOSSIBLE to plant a garden without putting up a sign saying "free veggies", I grew some broccoli. Had never done it before and guess I expected BIG heads?? Neighbor clued me in to CUT it before it even things about getting flowers. After first cutting, 3-4 (slightly smaller) heads grew. Didn't NOTICE the little blue/green caterpillary critters on FIRST cutting, so who knows how many I just ATE!?! There were several on following cuttings... took BLAST of water to make them let go!?!

                            1. Consider it an extra source of protein.