When I purchased a to-go kale salad at an eatery that will remain nameless, I got some extra protein that I did not order. After a few delicious bites, I saw a well-camouflaged green worm. Normally, I’m not very squeamish when it comes to nature’s creepy crawly creatures, but when they’re on my fork, it’s a different story.
In fact, I felt sympathetic to whomever grew the kale that housed my unwanted guest, because all gardens are at risk of getting them. After that event, I came home to find that, unfortunately, my garden has them too. And they are very good at hiding. While studying to become a Master Gardener Volunteer, I learned that certain moths lay their eggs on and under the leaves of cole crops, such as kale, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. They’re in the mustard, or Brassicas. The eggs produce worms that feed on the leaves and can turn them into skeletons, which is not good because plants need their leaves for photosynthesis. They can really do a number on your crop. The University of Minnesota website has tons of information about cabbage worms and notes that the two most common types in Minnesota are the cabbage looper and imported cabbage worm. My small garden has both. Lucky me!
That website has lots of information on how to get rid of them. The best thing is to try to prevent the moths from laying their eggs in the first place. You can do that by using row covers to protect your plants. If you see signs that the caterpillars are already there, such as holes in the leaves, eggs or a worm itself, you can pick them off and plop them in soapy water.
Thats’ what I’m doing. Garden centers sell low-impact insecticides, such as neem oil, that won’t hurt other creatures, but I avoid using them.
I’ve spent a lot of time this year tending to my garden and I am not happy to see cabbage worms in there. But, my plants are still producing. And after finding a little green worm in my salad, I am obsessively careful about examining and thoroughly washing my veg before cooking for my family or sharing produce with friends.
I like surprise visitors. But not in my food. And I like to choose they type of protein I have with my salads.
For comments or other podcast episode ideas, email Viv Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or on Twitter/Instagram/FB @vivwilliamstv.