It happened as I was cleaning out the fridge one day over the summer. I opened the vegetable bin, and I saw something I have never seen before. A moldy cucumber, just hanging out next to the lettuce.
It took me by surprise, not the fact that it was moldy (I am not the most reliable when it comes to cleaning out the fridge), but the fact that I'd never seen a moldy cucumber before. And that made me wonder: why haven't I seen one before, and why was this one moldy? What did it have (or not have), that all the other cucumbers I'd bought before didn't have (or did have)? Why didn't it just get mushy and leak that gross liquid I associate with cucumbers that have gone bad? This may seem like a weird thing to wonder about, but I kept pondering something my mother told me years ago: If a food doesn't get moldy, it's not really food. Any food that is pure and natural will mold. If it doesn't, then something artificial was added to it. I'd accepted this when it came to things like cheese singles, or mac & cheese. Nobody buys potato chips because they are looking for anything "natural". But a cucumber? What had happened to cucumbers that they weren't even behaving like a natural food anymore?
So I asked a friend of mine who has a large vegetable garden about what was going on with my cucumber. She asked me where I bought this particular cucumber. I told her I bought it at the farmer's market. Turns out, that was the difference. The moldy cucumber was just a cucumber, pure and simple. I was used to cucumbers bought at the grocery store. Those cucumbers get covered in a wax that prevents them from getting moldy during their transport and time in the store before we buy them. Wax also makes them shinier, and therefore prettier. Other foods get waxed as well, including apples, rutabagas, and green tomatoes. In the case of apples, their natural wax is removed before a different wax is applied.
Apparently this is an old practice. Fruits have been treated with wax as early as the 12th or 13th century. It has been done for commercial reasons with citrus since the 1920's or 30's. One of the natural products used as a wax, I discovered, is shellac. Shellac is made from from a bug. The female Lac bug, to be exact. Yep, those shiny apples you just bought are so pretty because they are covered in a ground-up bug. The good news is that it seems washing your produce in vinegar helps remove the wax before you eat it. Nonetheless, I will be a happy girl when the local farmer's market is open, and I can buy my pure and simple cucumbers again. I would take a cucumber that isn't quite as attractive but actually gets moldy over a shiny but waxy one any day.
It's nice to meet you! Welcome to my blog. My name is Amy, and my husband and I have three lively kids. We are so happy to share our journey with you. Come along as we learn to embrace the messiness of life, and maybe chase a dream or two along the way.