Do you know the right way to check vegetables for insects? And even if you do, do you know what you’re looking for? These resources can help.
A few years ago, I remember thinking that I couldn’t let a summer go by without enjoying at least one salad made from fresh baby spinach. But it was always only one night per summer, because after I finished the checking process (after about an hour), and after we finished eating the salad (after about 5 minutes), I couldn’t do it again. I remember thinking I’d pay at least eight bucks a bag to be able to buy fresh bug-free spinach like we did with Romaine.
Well, soon after, fresh bug-free baby spinach was available. And not for eight bucks either, but the same $4.50 as that Romaine.
The kosher consumer is super lucky nowadays to have access to fresh, greenhouse-grown, bug-free produce. Besides the fresh selection available from companies like Pos’Tiv/Kosher Gardens, there’s now microgreens grown by Verdini, and many supermarkets employ mashgichim to fill in the gaps, selling vegetables that have been freshly checked in-house.
Two or three years ago, I never would have thought I could have regular access to fresh bug-free spinach, arugula, spring mix, broccoli, cauliflower, a variety of fresh herbs…it is too good to be true.
But…what if you don’t live “in town?” What if you want to make say, bok choy stir-fry? What about if you want to use an herb that’s not available, such as fresh oregano? Or you want FRESH, not bagged cabbage for your slaw? (Total game-changer).
Before you click over these reliable resources, here’s a general outline of what most kashrut agencies agree can and cannot be checked.
- Brussel sprouts. You know you’re not opening and checking every minute leaf. Because the bulbs are eaten whole, and the bugs are hiding inside, most agree, these cannot be checked.
- Raspberries and Blackberries. Most poskim also agree that these are impossible to check and are not recommended.
- Broccoli and cauliflower. These can be checked, however, the process is so difficult and detailed, that it’s not practical for someone who does not work in kashrus to check on their own. Luckily, fresh checked/bug-free broccoli and cauliflower are readily available, depending on the season.
*Note: There are some fruits and vegetables that are always infested; others that are only sometimes infested, and the status can be different with every crop.
There are reliable resources that can supply the info you need.
This comprehensive website, under the auspices of Rabbi Michael Haber, also has an app, making it more convenient than ever to access vegetables checking information.
The CRC’s detailed guide is intended for those who are experienced with vegetable inspection and know what they should be looking for. For those who wish to be educated, there is also a series of audio shiurim with more details available at this link.
“Keeping Vegetables Kosher,” The Kof-K’s Guide to Bedikas Tola’im
This is a handy, easy-to-use PDF, includes information on most commonly used fruits and vegetables along with practical tips for checking. There’s also a detailed shiur on the topic (answering relevant questions like, “What can you eat when you’re invited for a meal and you don’t know if you’re host checked her vegetables?”) available here.
Rabbi Moshe Vaye is considered the world’s authority on insects in produce. This popular book, probably the most comprehensive resource out there, includes full-color photos and a wealth of more info so you can really become an expert. It’s important to know, not just how to check, but what to look for, and this book supplies the photos that fill you in.