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On Becoming a Gardener

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On Becoming a Gardener

Politically Incorrect explores eating maggots


Now that I’ve eaten a live maggot, I can mark that off my bucket list. Which is pretty amazing, especially when you consider that eating a live maggot wasn’t on my bucket list to begin with.

So how did this extraordinary happening come about? To start at the beginning, I became a gardener, and I did that as an attempt to do something nice for my mother, so obviously it’s all her fault. Did you catch that, children? Even while staring eyeball-to-eyeball with half a century, it’s still possible to assign blame to your parents. Take note.

My mother is getting older. How old I won’t say, but let me mention that I was born sometime in her third decade of life and, as I said, I am looking at 50 barreling toward me like a freight train. And recently, she’s been a little unsteady on her pins, with the result that she doesn’t get out and about as much as she did before. If you know my mother, you know that she got out and about quite a lot, so this has worried me.

For years, a friend has been offering to me a portion of her massively overgrown strawberry patch, and this year, I took her up on the offer, thinking that tending strawberries would be a good way to get my mother out of the house. Mom, you see, has one of the greenest thumbs I’ve ever come across.

I, however, do not. I have a well-deserved, tri-state reputation for killing plants, even plants considered to be indestructible. Which is why I’ve never had a garden.

So it started with the strawberries. I dug up about 200 plants from my friend’s patch, brought them home, and proceeded to dig up a portion of my back yard in which to plant them.

I would have been a terrible pioneer. It is absolutely exhausting to dig up enough yard to plant 200 strawberry plants. So I quit digging, and discovered I had enough room to plant about 60 plants. The rest I gave away.

The next day, somewhat recovered, I thought to myself, “Why not plant Mom a whole garden?” I didn’t want to dig anymore, of course, but I thought I could build her a small, raised bed for a few plants.

Then I went a little crazy with plants. Several types of tomatoes, some squash, Walla Walla onions, three types of peppers, carrots and lettuce and I would have done more but there was no room left in the raised bed.

In some ways this was a failed experiment, because Mom has never once walked out to the garden. As I said, her balance is no longer the best and my ground is not particularly level.

I, however, became addicted to gardening. You want to know why? The darn plants GREW! First time in my life I haven’t killed a plant.

My kids think I went a little nuts after they all grew up and moved out of the house because I talk to my cats and they talk to me in return (I provide translations to those who don’t speak cat). I’m glad the kids are not around to see me with the garden because almost every morning I head outside to talk to and touch each and every plant. “Good morning little tomato flower. Please grow into a tasty tomato. Look at you, little carrots! My, you’re growing well.”

Even I recognize it’s pathetic.

So what does this have to do with eating a live maggot, you wonder? Have patience, I’m not there yet.

My attempt at gardening has not been as successful as some for a number of reasons, most having to do with ignorance. I have had great difficulty with the concept of thinning, for example, as I can’t quite conceive of killing something that was actually attempting to grow for me. As a result my carrots are rather small; I call them “carrot nibbles.”

But the lettuce! Oh my god, lettuce! It’s a miracle plant! Did you know that if you pick the leaves from the bottom, the darn thing keeps growing? I have given away bunches of lettuce and still have more than I can possibly eat.

Which brings me a little closer to the live maggot experience.

You see, if you garden, you not only get to eat all the great food you’ve grown, and share it as well, you must also give thought to preserving some of that food for times when it’s not growing, also known as winter. Which is about 9 months out of the year here. 

Did you know you can’t preserve lettuce? That’s really a shame but it likes the weather a little chilly, so you can keep it growing for a lot longer than many other food plants.

But lots of other veggies can be preserved, so I’ve been looking into stocking my pantry for the winter. Gardening, however, has made me greedy, and I can tell you right now I didn’t plant enough to fill my pantry. My poor cherry tomatoes, in fact, have not even managed to make it into the house—as each one becomes ripe, it has been eaten right there in the garden. (Yes, I did share a few with my mother; I’m not completely heartless.)

So my greed has led me to become a food scavenger, and when I heard that a wild cherry tree had blown down, and there was free fruit for the picking, I was off like a lightning bolt, dragging Mom along with me.

I picked 20 pounds of cherries, and they might possibly be the best cherries I’ve ever eaten in my life. I was pretty restrained while picking, as there were lots of cherries to pick and not a lot of time in which to pick them. Mother was a glutton, however. She ate a lot more than she picked.

Back at home, I filled the kitchen sink with water and dumped the cherries in to clean them and that’s when I noticed the maggots. The cherries had maggots. My eyes widened with horror as I thought back to the number of cherries I had eaten while picking.

I immediately went next door to inform mother of the maggot infestation in the cherries; the same mother, of course, who had practically eaten herself sick on them. I guess maybe I am a little heartless, but in my defense, I swear I could feel those maggots I udoubtedly swallowed trying desperately to escape the acid in my stomach by climbing back up my throat. Misery loves company, ya know.

So I had 20 pounds of maggot cherries in my sink. What to do?

If you ever want a good laugh, Google “worms in cherries.”

My cherries, it seems, had been infested by the black cherry fruit fly. You can prevent this by spraying with chemicals, though in many ways, to my mind, that’s worse than the maggots, especially as those chemicals will likely also kill honeybees, which don’t need any more threats, thank you very much.

“If we were starving,” I said to my mom, “we’d probably be yelling, ‘Give me the cherries with the worms! I need the protein!’” Of course, we’re not starving, and I still had that ‘maggot crawling up my throat’ sensation. But maybe, I mused, it’s time to just grow up and get over it. After all, I’m simply not going to throw away 20 pounds of really good cherries (which were $3.78 a pound in the store, by the way).

Did you know a study done by the Ohio Extension Service showed that the average American, eating fruit and vegetables from the grocery store, ingests two pounds of insect matter every year? Chew on that for a minute.

Further reading on the Internet informed me if you soak the cherries in water for 24 hours, the maggots drown. I checked on the cherries in my sink. Yep, the maggots were crawling out of the cherries, but they were also trying to crawl out of the sink, and I really don’t like maggots. Gagging, I smashed the ones I could see with a paper towel and threw them away. I had planned to freeze the cherries. Would freezing also kill maggots? It was worth a try, especially as I wasn’t going to leave the cherries in the sink where the maggots could escape.

Yes, maggots will also attempt to escape a freezing cherry and move slowly enough to freeze in the process. I have the pictures to prove it. (They’re online so those who might be grossed out by frozen maggots emerging from cherries don’t have to look at them.) 

So the frozen maggot cherries went into the trash and the rest were bagged up for future eating. 

Are there still maggots inside some of the cherries or did every single one try to escape, becoming visible in the process? I don’t know but I suspect there’s still some dead maggots lurking in the fruit. So a question remained: Will frozen maggots come back to life once they’re thawed? A fisherman would know the answer to that, so I called my favorite game warden, Matt Haag. “Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha! You ate maggots! Ha ha ha!” (I could hear him thinking that.) “I would highly doubt it,” he told me. “Flies do not possess any cryptobiology to survive a freezing event.” Frozen maggots, therefore, should be dead forever.

And I can live with that. They will take on the coloring of the cherries and never be noticed. I hope.

Besides, I’ve already eaten live maggots. Dead ones can’t be nearly as bad.


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Author info

Landon Otis

Tagged as:

gardening, Politically Incorrect, maggots, cherries, preserving, black cherry fruit fly, worms in cherries, maggots in cherries, eating maggots

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