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Aphids on Kale – Is it Safe to Eat?

Although aphids have a lot of natural enemies, e.g., lacewings, parasitic wasps, ladybugs, and hoverflies, they nevertheless seem to propagate quite successfully on plants that we’d rather selfishly like to keep to ourselves for our own consumption.

We humans aren’t particularly tremendous at sharing, especially with lifeforms we consider to be pests, so we are somewhat taken aback and set on edge at the sight of a hoard of aphids besporting themselves on our kale. The cheek!

One suave and poetically just response would be to eat the uninvited little pests, kale and all, but we wonder, would it be safe to extract vengeance upon these tiny party-poopers in such a robust and pragmatic manner? In short, are aphids on kale safe to eat?

Aphids on kale – Is it still safe to eat?

It is safe to eat kale that has aphids on it. Aphids are not poisonous when consumed, even in large numbers. Aphids have never been recorded as a vector for any disease or parasite to enter humans in scientific literature. In short, it is perfectly safe to eat aphids on kale.

Aphids on Kale - Is it Safe to Eat?
Aphids on Kale – Is it Safe to Eat?

Kale, aphid, and I

Consuming kale with bugs is safe to eat; whether you think it is a brilliant idea to actually eat them literally boils down to your personal preference. The aphids you see on kale will not hurt you, but the same cannot be said for your kale.

The longer aphids are left to themselves to run rampant on your beautiful kale, the more your beautiful kale will look like the vegetable manifestation of a ‘flea-bitten varmint.’ Holes will propagate on the plant’s leaves, and soon enough, your kale will begin to look unhealthy and bug-infested, so much so that you might even end up disposing of it.

In reality, the only damage aphids can cause to your kale itself is lowering your harvest and the quality of your crop, which is a pretty heavy price to pay for hosting uninvited guests.

Aphids don’t carry ailments that can harm humans. Therefore, you can be sure that they are safe to eat without issues. That said, it is inadvisable to keep these pesky bugs on your kale, so get rid of them as soon as you spot any signs of them on your kale.

Left unattended for a long time, aphids can sap enough sap from your kale to the point where the leaf is too weak to survive, and its demise is inevitable. This means that you’ll have to remove all dead, infested leaves and dispose of them well away from your plants to avoid infection. This might severely denude your plant, and in general, it will be a labor-intensive, unnecessary expenditure of time.

Kale that had aphids on it is safe to eat
Kale that had aphids on it is safe to eat

A natural way to combat aphids

One way to control aphids on your kale which doesn’t involve chemicals, or hard work for that matter, is by introducing a human-and-kale friendly aphid assassin, by which I mean ladybugs. Ladybugs are into aphids like Hugh Heffner was on chicks, although I absolutely don’t mean anything sexual in that unfortunate simile.

What I mean is, ladybugs delight in munching on aphids. Each ladybug can go through up to fifty of the pests every day. If you introduce a suitable number of ladybugs into your kale patch, it’s the aphids that are going to have a problem, not you or your kale.

If you’re asking yourself, “Where the heck would I find ladybugs?” don’t fret about it, I’ve got you covered. You can actually buy ladybugs online! Who knew?

Please buy ladybugs from a ladybug farm, such as from the link above. Don’t buy them from a wild-harvested source if you’d like to help with sustainable practices.

Aphids are not poisonous
Aphids are not poisonous

Eat aphids on purpose

As wacky as it might sound, some people say we should actually eat aphids as part of a balanced diet. To be honest, I think this is one queue you won’t find me in, but if you’re the hardy, ‘hard man’ type with the kind of serious chest hair, that means you really would shove a mouthful of these insects into your mouth, I say, “Good for you, fella. The world needs hard men, not fastidiously culinary weaklings like me.”

Eating kale that as bugs on it is safe to eat
Eating kale that has bugs on it is safe to eat

Where to find aphids in abundance

Aphids feed on plants. There is a plentiful variety of aphids, each having its own preference for the kinds of plants it prefers to feed on. If you live anywhere near vegetable plants with broad leaves or tall stems, you ought to be able to spot many edible aphid varieties. The food they eat will affect how they taste, and that can be anywhere from bitter to sweet.

I don’t know what aphids on kale taste like, but I’d imagine they would lean more towards the bitter side than the sweet. Still, this is entirely conjectured on my part, and if you’re going to go down this route, I suggest you don’t take my word for it. (Hats off the men and women who figured out what aphids taste like, by the way.)

Equipment you’ll need to go aphid hunting

A container, bucket, or bowl with some water in it.

The only damage aphids will do is to lower the harvest of kale
The only damage aphids will do is to lower the harvest of kale

How to catch aphids in sufficient numbers to eat as a meal

Aphids are quite small. You’d probably be able to fit 50 or more on a penny, so you’ll need some kind of strategy to catch enough of the little critters to make it worth your while from the point of view of your calorie intake.

I suggest finding an aphid-infested plant and brushing the insects into the water-containing container. As you go methodically leaf after leaf and plant after plant, I imagine that you’ll soon enough capture enough of the bugs with which to create a mini-feast.

Tip: aphids don’t wash off easily. To get them off the plant–remember, they have their snouts literally stuck into the host plant–use a soft-bristled toothbrush. If you don’t care whether the plant lives or dies (for example, if you’re going to eat it), then swish the plant around in the water in your container.

How to prepare aphids for eating

This is the easy part–just rinse them once by straining through a suitably fine mesh, then boil them, season to your liking with the slightest of slight sprinklings of salt and black pepper if you feel so inclined. I’m told that aphids don’t have a particularly strong taste, so go really easy on any seasoning. Enjoy.

Frequently Asked Questions About Aphids on Kale

Are aphids poisonous to humans?

Aphids are not poisonous to humans. Aphids bite humans–especially the larger species of aphids–but their bites are not venomous, and the aphids themselves are not poisonous.

Are aphids able to live on a human?

Aphids are unable to live on humans. Aphids feed entirely on plant sap, and as you are no doubt aware, humans don’t have a lot of that in their system.

Conclusion About Aphids on Kale

It may be unsightly, and if you were to attempt to feed your dinner guests aphid-infested kale, I wager that you’d soon find your dinner invitations disrespected and ignored, but actually, no harm comes from eating aphids. In fact, some propose, and presumably practice, that we eat aphids and other insects as a viable source of protein.