One of the very nice things about having a close friend is knowing that when she calls early on a Saturday and asks if I want to go somewhere with her, I don’t have to worry too much about things like fixing my hair or making sure I have eyebrows on. On this particular occasion, it was a tomato festival of sorts and since I’ve been thinking about tomatoes I thought it would be great to avoid planting seeds and just cut to the chase with small plants.
You can call me weak. It’s quite all right.
Nevertheless, we did drive up to the Quail Botanical Gardens to peek at the booths of herbs and homemade soaps, jams, and of course, tomato plants featured at the Tomatomania event. I purchased several varieties including a few Super Marzanos and have lovingly planted them all in one huge pot. Yes, I know there’s a rule about how far apart one should plant tomatoes, but I have limited space and I’m planning on watching like a hawk, making sure they get just the right amount of water and sunlight as any good helicopter parent should.
But this isn’t about tomatoes — yet. Again. It’s about broccoli.
My good friend is an avid gardener and is already gathering gorgeous heads of broccoli so of course, she gave me one before we set out on our Saturday morning trek. The broccoli sat on the kitchen counter the rest of the day and I proudly showed my husband, “Look. Look what Mrs. B grew in her very own garden.” To my husband’s credit, he was actually quite impressed as those of us who have never grown broccoli might be and I placed the broccoli back on its towel having decided that I’d make a quiche or frittata in the morning for Sunday breakfast.
The next morning…
Picture me still semi-delirious and rinsing the coffee pot so that I might soon enjoy my daily jolt. Picture my son bending over the very slightly wilted head of broccoli, hands in pockets and observing, “Mom. It appears your broccoli has aphids.”
And he was right. Hundreds of little green bugs lay perfectly around the broccoli as if someone had told them a pot of hot water was looming in their immediate future and they had all jumped ship — erm — vegetable. The first thing I thought of was my friend because she’d mentioned they were going to have broccoli soup for dinner the night before and I wondered whether she’d noticed the bugs. Oh, my. There were so many tiny bugs.
Upon closer inspection, I noticed there were a variety of bugs, or at least bugs in varying stages of metamorphosis. Stuck to the sides of the stems were dark rounds somewhat resembling scale. I sprayed the broccoli, picking through all the florettes and holding a fine-meshed strainer beneath to see what I collected. Then I blanched the floretes, watching even more little bugs swirl in the boiling water before floating to the top. As usual, a douse in a cold water bath to stop the cooking not only made the broccoli’s color quite vivid, but uncovered a few more critters who managed to make it through the previous attempts to rid the broccoli of their presence.
I was convinced I’d won but had to call my friend to let her know. Yes, they’d enjoyed the broccoli soup, but no, they hadn’t seen any bugs. Evidently we were the sole lucky recipients of the protein bonus with the broccoli.
Regardless, we enjoyed a lovely frittata that morning. Bugs or no bugs. Just don’t ask me to eat a grass hopper, okay? Even if it’s deep-fried and has bacon wrapped around it.