When I was pregnant with my first child, we had a lovely lettuce patch in our backyard garden. Before I was in the family way, I very much enjoyed heading out to pluck a few succulent leaves for a salad or to top my sandwich, but my hormone surge evidently affected my palate and suddenly lettuce became disgusting, especially when I spotted...a bug--GASP. Thankfully those days are long behind me (12 years behind me) and I can now eat lettuce once again, even when I notice a creepy-crawly or two. In fact, I don't mind bugs at all usually, because I understand that if my salad won't kill a bug, it probably won't kill me either (contamination with salmonella notwithstanding). Most of the produce I buy at the farmers' market is relatively bug and grit free, having been given a good hosing down before it is brought to market. But there is the occasional exception to that rule, like the time I bought a bag of wild arugula that ended up being so riddled with holes and live bugs that I couldn't bring myself to eat it. It was kind of traumatizing actually, and I haven't been able to buy from that specific grower ever since. But generally speaking, a few bugs won't hurt you and you can expect to find them from time to time in your produce, even the stuff you buy from the supermarket. The more I read about large-scale farming operations and how they have to scare away the field mice, and how they make their workers wear blue band-aids so there aren't any surprises in the baby-lettuce-filled plastic clam shells, really makes my stomach churn a bit. All the more reason to grow your own, right?
I read something in Gourmet Magazine this morning that was a bit more disconcerting than a few gnats in my bok choy. It had to do with spiders...live ones, being accidentally shipped with grapes. As pesticide use has fallen out of favor, more and more grape growers are looking to natural pest control. And who is better up for the job than spiders who love to nosh on all kinds of grape-eating pests? Some grocers have now asked their customers to beware of spider webs (and spiders?) making the occasional appearance in bunches of grapes. That is all fine and dandy, again, I don't have an issue with bugs, even spiders in moderation. But when I read that there is one particular spider that is working in earnest in the grapevines, albeit she is an uninvited diner, I flipped out a little. My friends, the black widow spider is the arachnid of which I speak.
Let me tell you briefly about black widows. I am not a fan. Here in the high desert, we have many, many, many black widows. Like the one we killed hanging out in my front porch planters. And the one we offed by the door bell. Or how about the one still pressed in the door jam of my back door? Or the one we killed recently in my KITCHEN, or the one we discovered HANGING OVER MY DAUGHTER'S BED, or the GIGANTIC ONE WE SMASHED TWO NIGHTS AGO CRAWLING UP MY BEDROOM CURTAINS?!?!? Sorry for 'screaming', but I really, really, do not want black widows arriving in my grapes for Pete's sake, we have enough to deal with on our own.
Thankfully, I have quite awhile to get over my fear and will now know to carefully inspect the bunches that I buy at the farmers' market (or elsewhere) for Charlotte or any of her less-than-desirable comrades, when grapes come to market in late summer. Just thought you might like a head's up too.
Photo from Gourmet Magazine...isn't it awesome?