As I lovingly harvested nine corn-on-the-cobs (yes, nine!) for my family to munch the other evening I was struck by a thought. Just what DOES go on with all this perfect looking supermarket veg?
The thought was sparked by the discovery that some naughty earwigs had made themselves at home in each and every one of the sweetcorn husks I was harvesting. They ran out from the little hairy strands at the top, and when I peeled back the outer leaves a bit I could see that there were some things that looked suspiciously like eggs nestled inside at the tip of the cobs.
For me it wasn’t a massive problem, I simply cut off the tips and fed them to my six very grateful chickens. Then, rather than chucking the cobs into the embers of a campfire to cook as I’d originally planned, I peeled the leaves off, rinsed them off and popped all nine into a whopping great pan of boiling water so that I didn’t risk barbecuing a couple of earwigs and feeding them to my nephews!
But it did make me think quite a lot about all my veg crops and their so called imperfections – the caterpillar eaten spinach leaves, the aubergines with little holes formed by woodlice (a bit random!), the courgette that was slightly yellow underneath where it hadn’t seen any sun, the oversized French beans that I should have picked a couple of days beforehand, the two deformed tomatoes with split skin that looked like aliens had dropped them in the greenhouse, my slightly blemished spuds and even my dog-eaten mint (he has a habit of nibbling a few leaves here and there!)
All these imperfections are completely normal, manageable, and none of them have killed me. It’s my veg and I can deal with it as I see fit. If that means chopping off a few corn tips here and there, and cutting off the green parts of a potato or two, then that’s fine. But just how do supermarkets churn out all these perfect looking, earwig free sweet corns? Do I want to eat them with whatever it is they have been sprayed with to deter said earwigs? What happens to those oversized beans? And the yellow courgette? Why are there no caterpillar holes in those packeted spinach leaves? What on earth am I eating???
I know none of these questions are new, and I know the answers to most of them. But the reality of growing my own this summer has really hammered it all home to me. It just doesn’t seem ‘right’ to see so much perfect looking veg on the shelves. Bring me a carrot that looks like a pair of legs any day. Much more trustworthy!