In Praise of Bug-Eaten Produce

My apple tree was a champ this year. It produced bushels of some of the tastiest apples I have ever eaten, and I'm not just saying that. Big and red and ripe, these apples are good. They're a dream to cook with, holding their shape and flavor well. They are also the ideal snack on a fall afternoon, perfectly crisp-sweet-tart. And the best part is that I've got more apples than I can use myself. Apple party!

So why can't I get anyone to share them?

I've asked family. I've asked friends. I've asked neighbors. I'm crushed; nobody wants my apples.

I'll tell you why. They have bugs.

When I offer to share my apples, I'm always certain to include a warning that they grew on my tree in the backyard, so most of the apples are imperfect and have worm holes. At the very mention of bugs, I see the light shut off in people's faces. The conversation is finished. Over and again, my offer of delicious free apples is refused.

Here's the thing. Grocery store apples are the picture of cookie-cutter perfection. They're bred for good looks, hybridized sweetness, and shipability. What about taste - not just sweetness, but nuances of flavor, tart and floral and earthy? And what are those shining illusion of apple perfection hiding? There could be the residues of multiple pesticides on that beauty contest winner, or worse (apples genetically modified to taste of cinnamon could land in your store in the near future), you just don't know.

So you see, a few bug holes aren't necessarily a bad thing. For me, they're more of a seal of approval. I see bug holes less as blemishes, and more as Mamma N's way of telling me "there's nothing here that would so much as harm a bug, so go ahead and enjoy." My apples grew without the tiniest drop of pesticides or chemical fertilizers. The fact that the bugs have happily indulged in more than a few meals is just proof-positive that the apples are safe to eat. Mind you, there is a difference between a few holes here and there, and produce which has been overrun with bugs, which is generally a sign of weakness, either in the soil or the plant. But, in general, a few bug bites can be a good thing.

And that's one of the reasons that I grow my own food as much as possible, sticking seeds in any container and little slice of land that I can get my hands on. Because when I grow my own produce, I know with certainty how it was grown. I don't have to take anyone's word for it. My apples have worms, my carrots are small, my peaches are hail damaged, my collards have bug holes. But I know my food is good.

Keep this in mind when shopping for organic produce... or if a neighbor should offer you apples.

I'm sharing this post with Fight Back Friday.


  1. I agree! I have a whole bag full of pears on my table right now...wormholed and everything...that my neighbor just brought me. And I think they're gorgeous!!

  2. I am laughing so hard butter because I stood in front of my brother in law's 15 apple trees on their property and thought of all the apple sauce and cider they could make and they said, oh those apples are crap and full of worms! If they had been ripe when I visited, I would have carted home a ton! I also agree with your whole point on growing your own food. My veggie garden has been taking a beating from buggies and too much rain, but hopefully the collared and kale will stick it out! Hugs! Alex

  3. Heather - I bet those smell delicious. I can't wait to see what you'll be cooking up with those.

    Alex - I really need a cider press. There are few things finer than a nice fizzy glass of cider (preferably hard). I'm rooting for your greens, girl!

  4. Hello and Happy Sunday Ms Butter! Love this post. Real food is enjoyed by all, and sometimes that includes the little ones! I will never forget the first time I blanched organic broccoli, hmmm a couple of little green floaters. But that was the best broccoli when winter came about and we enjoyed it, with a blessing to the little ones! Thanks for posting,

    Melynda @ Mom's Sunday Cafe

  5. amen! i am a big fan of the imperfect produce

  6. Great post! My kids have often commented to farmers at the market that their produce must be good stuff because the bugs love it (in particular the sweet corn that always seems to have caterpillars) :) I am so grateful that my kids recognize this and are not squeamish about eating produce after the bugs and bug eaten parts have been removed and shared with our hens.

  7. Somehow I missed this post when it was new - I would have loved your apples - but I wasn't always that way. I am so glad that I now realize that your wormy apples are like 1000x better than any plastic/perfect apple from the store!

  8. Ok, I get it thanks to this post, but I am still squeemish at the thought of bugs eating my produce..


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