Insects in Veggies Bugging You?

April 28, 2009

According to Jewish law, eating a bug is much worse than eating ham. And so it is most important for the kosher homemaker serving vegetables to make certain that those lush greens, so crunchy and healthful, are insect-free. But given the tiny size of the critters, this is no easy task.

Relax! Help is now on the way, with the release of the OU Kosher DVD, Insect-Free: A Guide to Home Vegetable Inspection. This video, running almost an hour-and-a-half in length, features Rabbi Yosef Eisen, the Rabbinic Administrator of the Vaad Hakashrus of the Five Towns & Rockaway and an OU Kosher Rabbinic Coordinator from 1990-1999. Rabbi Eisen shares his vast expertise in a clear and engaging way so that the steps in inspection are simple to follow. His purpose, he said, in preparing the DVD, is “to empower each and every person so that they can partake fully of God’s bounty.”

A wide variety of that bounty is featured: leafy vegetables (e.g. lettuce and cabbage); herbs (dill, parsley); miscellaneous produce (scallions, cauliflower); and berries, such as strawberries. The DVD comes with a handy menu-function, so that the viewer can click right to what he or she wants to see, and is geared to a variety of audiences – those at home and those in school.

Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of OU Kosher, declared, “Because since the days of Rachel Carson the Federal government quite correctly has limited the use of insecticides on food, there has been an increase in insects found in vegetables. Therefore, knowing how to check for these insects has become increasingly important. The prohibition in Jewish law of eating insects is particularly severe and this DVD is a hands-on way of checking vegetables to make sure they are acceptable.”

David Lenik, the producer, has his own take on the DVD. “This project taught me to think about vegetable inspection as an act of serving God and not just as one more arduous task. Also, having seen the bugs, up-close-and-too-personal, coming out of what looks like a perfectly healthy vegetable, I now see that proper cleaning provides a tangible benefit.”

Insect-Free: A Guide to Home Vegetable Inspection is one of several projects of OU Kosher’s expanded educational outreach. OU Kosher’s educational programs include the nationally-renowned “OU Kosher Coming” program, which sends OU’s expert rabbis to schools, synagogues and college campuses to share their knowledge of halacha and technology; as well as the ever-growing “Kosher Tidbits” series of short seminars on innumerable aspects of kashrut and certification, available at ouradio.org.

The Orthodox Union has produced four other DVD’s devoted to kashrut education: Kosher Kidz, focusing on ice cream, which explains the basics of kosher certification to a youthful audience; The Kosher Fish Primer, which explains the basics of identifying kosher fish and purchasing them; Kosher Meat: Unexplored Frontiers, with Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, which explores the process of post-slaughter meat preparation: and Kosher Birds: Who Are They? which discusses the signs of avian kashrut. These DVD’s have been purchased in Jewish communities around the world.

So now comes the fifth video in the series, prepared specifically to avoid the shriek coming from the kitchen, “Not salad! Anything but SALAD!!!” According to Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Safran, Senior Rabbinic Coordinator and Vice President of Marketing and Communications of OU Kosher, “A group of women who have previewed the DVD have commented that they ‘have long waited for a clear, precise, hands-on presentation of how to really be sure that our vegetables are free of any Torah prohibited bug infestation. We now have it.”

Rabbi Safran points out that the DVD is user-friendly, “including the menu option, the clarity of Rabbi Eisen’s presentation, the summaries, and the popular veggies it features. Most importantly,” he emphasized, “this DVD is geared to meet the needs of the Jewish homemaker, of everyone involved with kosher food preparation in the home kitchen, as well as for educators and students focusing on all it takes to maintain a kosher kitchen.”

The new DVD is $10 a copy; to order all five is $35. For further information on bringing OU Kosher to your school or community, or to order the previous DVD’s, contact Rabbi Safran at.