Diary of a Rocket Gardener: Washing caterpillars from broccoli

Ok, I think harvesting this glorious looking broccoli head might well be my favourite veg achievement for this year. I’ve never grown my own calabrese broccoli before and there was something really fun about watching it grow and develop, especially with so many caterpillars to contend with. They were all over the shop, and cabbage whites were flitting around all summer laying more and more eggs for me to find and remove. When the caterpillars hatched, they were incredibly hard to spot – exactly the same colour as the broccoli plant itself, so perfectly camouflaged. To have an actual broccoli worth harvesting at the end of the season was quite a victory.

You can imagine my distress when I took my treasured broccoli into the kitchen and saw a caterpillar crawl out of it. How many more were hiding in there? Well, I did some close inspecting and kept finding more and more. I tried washing them off, but they just clung on so I had to pick them off one by one. But they were well hidden and in the end I was cutting up tiny little broccoli florets to try and find them. It took a while and I figured there must be an easier way. Googling ensued.

It turns out that if you soak your broccoli in a bowl of warm water with a splash of white vinegar and a generous pinch of salt then the caterpillars can no longer cling on, and after 20 minutes or so they will float off leaving your broccoli caterpillar free and ready to rinse off before cooking. I was sceptical, but I have to say, it did seem to work and I was able to cook my second broccoli head yesterday without the fear of chomping through several caterpillars.

Hope this helps if anybody else is having similar dilemmas!!