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The fall vegetables in my small box garden are coming in, and at least one of them has taught me something new.

The half-dozen broccoli plants I set out are gorgeous. I cut two heads the size of bridal bouquets last week, and gave one of them to a friend. I had never cooked broccoli that didn’t come from the grocery store, and neither had she, but we didn’t anticipate the need for any special treatment. While my broccoli was still chilling in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator, my friend was preparing to serve hers to guests. Her daughter broke the florets apart and rinsed them off before cooking.

After serving the broccoli with appropriate fanfare regarding its freshness, it seems that everyone at the table discovered at least one fresh worm in their beautiful broccoli.

Oops.

At least they could tell it was organic. It turns out that two or three varieties of little green caterpillars like to hide among the branches of the florets. They don’t eat it; they just hang out there where birds can’t reach them. You can pick them off if you look closely while breaking the broccoli down, and I learned that a classic solution is to dunk the whole head in salt water for a while, which causes the little critters to turn loose and float to the top.

When I fixed some chicken and vegetable stir fry Sunday evening, the star veggies were broccoli, carrots, and bell pepper, all from the garden — and the only protein source was the chicken. When I cook up some of my Savoy cabbage later this week, you can be sure I’ll examine it very closely.

Lesson learned.

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