Houston, We Have a Salad

After a lovely day at the beach on Plum Island, I went out to weed and thin our first plantings. Guess what? There were enough leaves from the seedlings I had to pull out for an honest-to-God salad! Here's what I saved from the thinning:

On the left is lettuce; on the right is bok choy. That's kind of a weird salad ingredient, but it was small and tender. There's more:

On the left is arugula; on the right is beet greens (with the red stems) and turnip greens (with white/purple stems).

We decided to mix it all together for a micro-green salad for dinner. Kirk topped the salad with the world's easiest dressing: lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and olive oil. No mixing or measuring — just squeeze or sprinkle or drizzle on and toss.  It's really light and fresh, and perfect when your veggies already taste good. The finished product:

This was delicious and satisfying … right up until I noticed part of it was crawling around my plate. Even though we rinsed and spun and tossed this all up in various bowls in its preparation, there were a few very tenacious little green inchworms on the turnip greens. I would have taken a photo, but Kirk ate them up. Hakuna Matata.

According to my internet research, these little guys were cabbage loopers, and they'll eat up the leaves of kale, cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli … pretty much all the stuff we planted for the fall. So I guess I know what I'll be doing tomorrow: picking them off and spraying with Bt, which is a bacteria that will kill them without harming birds, mammals, or non-caterpillar insects. It's an organic control that we've used before on the apple trees, so we'll see how it goes.

As of Saturday, August 27, there were no cabbage looper caterpillars left when I made the rounds to squish them. In the end I'm not sure whether it was the Bt, the hand-picking, or a combination that did the trick, but the damage seemed to subside around Wednesday, and after that I was down to catching just one or two until Saturday, when there were none. I'll probably continue to check every second or third day (and definitely before serving up a salad!) to be sure.


  1. I'll have to try that spray. I had something eating my brussels sprouts and I refuse to put poison on them. Btw, I love beet greens. and beets.


  2. We've had good results. Just be sure to identify what's doing the eating first--it won't work on insects other than moth/butterfly caterpillars. the brand we use is American Thuricide Concentrate, but Bt (bacterium thuricide) come under a few different brand names. A decent garden center should know what you're talking about.

    I myself am neutral about beets, but hope to learn to love them.

  3. Tell me more about spraying your apple trees--we have some (horribly overgrown) apple trees that drop about 100000000000 wormy apples in our yard every year. Every spring I think maybe we'll go and have someone come spray noxious chemicals on these trees so we can get some decent fruit, but then I get uncomfortable with how close to the kids' play area the trees are. Anyway, what are you spraying the Bt for, and does it work? And how many times do you have to spray the trees?

  4. I actually only used the Bt on the apple last year because we noticed some leaf roller damage. Leaf rollers are a kind of moth that cocoon the,selves in the leaves by rolling the leaf around them. But if you spray while they are still caterpillars, they eat the bacteria and die, which won't maybe save everything, but it will interrupt their lifecycle and give you a fighting chance for the future. It only works on caterpillar/moth/butterfly type bugs, though, so you should try to figure out what you've got.

    To help with that, I recommend "The Backyard Orchardist" by Stella Otto, which has so much great info on everything you could possibly need to know about caring for fruit trees. I got it out at the library and ended up buying it, and we use it all the time.

    Off the top of my head, you're probably stuck until spring now, but the Bt would work then much better, because you'd be catching them with the first nibbles they make, before too much damage is done. There's a double list in the book with regular and organic controls for each type of disease or insect problem, so you can choose.

    I found the Bt effective, but we also caught the problem on the trees really early. With the cabbage loopers, I can't tell if was the Bt or the smushing or both...I do know that on the 6th day I didn't see any more of them, so in the future I will probably stick with the combo.


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