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How should open leaf lettuce be checked for bugs?

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Description:

Bib, Bok Choy, Boston, Butter Lettuce, Chicory, Chinese Lettuce (Napa), Green Leaf, Red Leaf, Romaine, and Watercress all grow in a similar fashion. As they sprout forth from the ground, the leaves begin to open up like a flower. Toward the end of their growth they begin to close around the stalk.

Infestation:

The insects most commonly found in open leaf lettuce are small green aphids or thrips. The leaves of the vegetable often camouflage these insects. The open structure of these vegetables allows insects to penetrate the entire head. Often, insects may be found between the innermost layers of leaves of an infested head. Therefore, each leaf must be washed and checked individually. The use of a light box for checking lettuce is extremely helpful.

Occasionally, worms may be found in burrows within the body of the leaf. Look for a narrow (1/8”) translucent burrow speckled with black dots breaking up the deep green color of the leaf. These burrows will often trap the worm within the leaf. To rid the leaf of these worms, carefully slit the bumpy part within the burrow with a sharp knife and remove the worm.

The leaves of the vegetable often camouflage these insects
Please note: Many of these varieties feature curly leaves with many folds in which the insects tend to hide. We therefore recommend that, they be washed and checked with extreme caution.

Inspection:

  1. Cut off the lettuce base and separate the leaves from one another.
  2. Soak leaves in a solution of cold water and vegetable wash. The proper amount of vegetable wash has been added when some bubbles are observed in the water. (In the absence of vegetable wash, several drops of concentrated non-scented liquid detergent may be used. However, for health reasons, care must be taken to thoroughly rinse off the soapy solution.)
  3. Agitate lettuce leaves in the soapy solution.
  4. Spread each leaf, taking care to expose all its curls and crevices. Using a heavy stream of water or a power hose, remove all foreign matter and soap from both sides of each leaf. Alternatively, a vegetable brush may be used on both sides of the leaf.
  5. Several leaves should be checked over a light box or under strong overhead lighting to verify that the washing procedure has been effective. Pay careful attention to the folds and crevices in the leaf where insects have been known to hold tight through several washings.
  6. If it is practical, it is best to check each leaf.
  7. If the manner of washing described above is impractical, each leaf must be carefully inspected.
  8. In a commercial setting, a vegetable spinner is recommended. (The advantages of spin-drying are:
    • the Rabbi will not risk an electrical shock when placing the leaves on the light box; and
    • the leaves will stay fresh and moist for a longer period of time.)

Three handfuls of leaves from different areas of the bin should be checked over a light box or under direct light. Our experience has shown that if the leaves are washed properly, no insects will be found.

Republished with permission from www.oukosher.org


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