If you can't beat em....just eat 'em

donnieappleseedOctober 16, 2010

It's sometimes too frustrating to keep the bugs out.

We have one local guy here who talks about how to eat the insects....


In fairness, though, for things like apple maggot larvae I think it would be better to process, pasteurize, or cook the apples if they are infested....they probably don't hurt anything and the standard non-original joke is "hah! they just add more protein"

But do we know for absolute certainty that the bugs in our fruit don't hurt anything? I wrote the CDC in Atlanta and got something of a non-answer to the question I posed to them last week.

I know a local entomologist and surgeon who have zero fears about eating wormy apples....but I know of no one who can give me a definitive answer other than the supposition that if a fruit has decomposed enough from an infestation, then there could be a bacterial problem in certain advanced stages.

I would like to hear if anyone knows of any research on the problem.....do we absolutely know for sure that it's okay to eat wormy apples? If so, then maybe we should stop spraying....seriously....this spraying and bagging is a headach. If we do not know of the safety issue, then what is a reasonable and non-paranoid response with how to deal with imperfect fruit?

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oregonwoodsmoke(5 OR Sunset 1A)

(polite smile) No thanks.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2010 at 8:48PM
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alan haigh

If I got sound fruit and sound worms that might be ok but it don't work that way.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2010 at 9:21PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

I wouldn't agree w/ Davidge "Ogre" Gordon, but each to his own :-)

The fruit won't store, and if infested too early, won't last long enough to harvest.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2010 at 1:57PM
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For fresh eating I'll pass on wormy fruit.
But for sweet and hard cider, as well as applesauce I have no problem with sound fruit showing insect damage. I cannot point to research but I can tell you my family and friends have been using road trees and abandoned farm/orchards for this for years with no one having Ill effect. And every oldtimer I know here has done the same for generations. Most people I know prefer our "wild organic" cider to the store bought stuff, but I think that has more to do with multiple variety blends and the lack of pasteurization than any insects that get mushed in. But we do wash and inspect every apple for ANY decomp...which seems to be more associated with severe scab than insects...and for applesauce we do a fair bit of trimming to remove the bulk of "worm tracks" after they get peeled/cored/sliced.

As an aside, it is always very interesting to note the variations of types and degree of damage to these apples from site to site as well as tree to tree on the same site...you learn pretty quick that some trees will just never give passable fruit without care while others routinely have a decent portion of the crop in "good" shape...I consider it local field testing for varieites best suited to organic production, and have taken grafts from the better tasting less effected trees for our home orchard....where we do try for clean fruit to store and eat fresh/cook. I am sure I am not the only one doing this. Do the varieties have names...who knows...are they useful and yummy... absolutely.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2010 at 2:32PM
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Donnie, with an educational background in microbiology and veterinary medicine, I'm pretty comfortable telling you that in almost all certainty, there would be no health hazards associated with eating 'wormy' fruit.
It's all aesthetics.
The insect pests that attack fruits are not potential human(or animal) pathogens, and don't serve as an intermediate host for any parasites that would be of concern to mammals. Same for any bacterial/fungal species growing in the fruit - not a hazard; but they might foster some undesirable 'off' flavors - or, on a more desirable front, higher alcohol content!

The one caveat that I can think to bring forward is contamination of 'drops'(fallen fruit picked up off of the ground). Several years back, there was an outbreak of E.coli O157/H7 disease in people who drank unpasteurized apple cider which was made incorporating 'drops' that were found to have been contaminated by deer feces - and subsequent investigation revealed an E.coli O157/H7 strain in deer fecal pellets collected in the orchard that was identical to the one that caused the illness.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2010 at 2:45PM
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A lot of the fear of this is just cultural. I'm sure our ancestors prior to the discovery of the first pesticides, arsenic compounds in the 19th century, ate a LOT of wormy fruit, either directly or indirectly in processed form, and didn't give it much second thought.

And, I'm sure that in many poor countries around the world, it's still the norm, not the exception, to have to eat things untreated with pesticides. Most of those people no doubt also just "eat around" the parts that are too damaged to be edible. They probably turn the bad stuff into food indirectly by feeding it to chickens, pigs, goats, or whatever which then provides a human food source.

And, of course, there are many cultures around the world that directly eat and enjoy insects. Aborigines in Australia ate many, many kinds of insects. In Thailand, giant water bugs, dipped in batter and deep fried, are a gourmet delicacy and are becoming very expensive, the supply being limited due to overharvesting, pesticide runoff, etc. I also recently saw an episode of Rick Bayliss' PBS series 'Mexico One Plate at a Time' where he was in a very exclusive restaurant in Mexico city that was serving fried grasshoppers.

Really, any time you eat most commercially processed foods of plant origin, such as breads, juices, etc., you are getting trace amounts of insect proteins. The federal government sets allowable levels of insect matter in all kinds of foodstuffs. "Zero" just isn't realistically attainable in a cost-effective way.

Here is a link to an FDA publication which shows the allowable level of contamination of various types of things in certain foods. Some of it may be higher than many people know -- for example, 4% of cocoa beans can be infested and still be sold in the US food trade. Canned tomatoes can have no more than 2 fruit fly larvae per 500 gram (slightly larger than a pound) can. Ground nutmeg can have no more than 100 insect fragments per 10 grams.

Here is a link that might be useful: FDA guide to allowable contamination levels in food.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2010 at 3:26PM
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thanks everyone for your thoughts. Here's what I note:
1. In the remote area of Stehekin, Washington is a homestead orchard called Buckner that is maintained by the National Park Service. They have ZERO codling moths and apple maggots and do zero spraying......even though tons of commercial orchards are only 40 miles downlake....the natural habitat suits this orchard just fine and it doesn't get the bugs.....so I wonder if our ancestors had much of a bug problem.

2. On Vashon Island near Seattle is a small farm I have worked on where the deer eat every apple that falls to the ground within 24 hours.....there is zero apple maggot problem and I am guessing the deer are keeping the maggots from entering the ground from the dropped apples. I am also guessing that live larvae are not exiting through the deer feces and that therefore the larvae are killed inside of the deer's intestinal system.....guesses only.

thanks again

    Bookmark   October 18, 2010 at 7:59PM
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You'd be 'spot on' for thought #2, anyway.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2010 at 10:39PM
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oregonwoodsmoke(5 OR Sunset 1A)

I wouldn't mind cutting around worms in the apples, but my experience is that once the fruit is infested, it does not ripen correctly. Often it is deformed in addition to not ripening.

Once bugs are allowed to thrive in an orchard, the fruit will be scarred and scabbed, in addition to never sweetening up.

I find it more time effective to keep the worms out of the apples than it is to try to trim wormy apples into a usable condition.

The worms in apples taste like dirt, and are NOT pleasant to add into a mouthful of apple.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2010 at 1:34PM
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