When an apple contains a worm, is it still edible? Source: clip2art.com & worldartsme.com. Montage: laidbackgardener.com

Question: This has been a bad year for apple worms and most of my apples are infested. Can I still use them for juice and apple sauce?

Alex Carmichael

Answer: Sure! Humans have been eating wormy apples for thousands of years and, as the joke goes, a worm just adds a little extra protein.

(The other joke is: What’s worse than finding a worm in your apple? The answer? Finding half a worm in your apple! [Pause for laughter.])

In fact, it wasn’t really until pesticides were introduced back in the 19th century (arsenic, believe it or not!) and it became possible to produce apples without worms that we humans started to become squeamish about the subject. When you buy commercially produced apple juice and apple sauce, I can guarantee that there is some insect protein in it.

20180910B simpleunhookedliving.wordpress.com.jpg
I’m pretty sure I’ve eaten a few of these over my lifetime … but so what? Source: simpleunhookedliving.wordpress.com

As a kid, I used to harvest apples from an abandoned orchard and eat the fruits, trying to eat around the worms (actually, not true worms, but the larva of the codling moth, Cydia pomonella). I probably swallowed a few without realizing it and now find the idea gross, but that’s a cultural thing. They are neither harmful to humans (nor animals) nor do they carry any harmful parasites. Now, worms digging into the apple will cause some rot and that can produce an off flavor, but even the bacterial and fungal species that cause rot in apples are not a hazard for humans.

What you should probably not do, though, is harvest fallen fruits that have been lying on the ground for a while. They could pick up harmful bacteria from the soil. People have been made sick, for example, by drinking unpasteurized apple juice made from fallen apples that came into contact with deer scat containing E. coli bacteria.

If you do harvest fallen apples, therefore, cook them thoroughly.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

2 comments on “Can You Eat Wormy Apples?

  1. Good info, and I appreciated the smile thinking about our ancestors answering that question, but I don’t think anyone would have asked it back in the day. 🙂

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