What’s With These Holes in My Kale?

Written by Max Goldberg on August 22, 2011. Follow Max on Twitter: @livingmaxwell.

Ok. Let’s be very, very honest here.

How many times have you been at the market, looked at a piece of organic produce, seen numerous imperfections, and then searched for something that looked a little bit more aesthetically pleasing?

I’m certainly guilty of doing that.

But the question is: Why do we do this?

My sense is that we have this belief in the U.S. that fruit and vegetables are supposed to look “perfect”. And if they are not perfect, there is something wrong with them.

Yet, as organic consumers, this is something that we need to get beyond.

Take, for example, the kale (above) that I bought in Nantucket this past weekend at Pumpkin Pond Farm, a certified organic farm.

The kale is full of holes, something that I have encountered numerous times at my local organic market. I have always thought that some insect had eaten its way through it and “infected” or “damaged” it.  Therefore, it was to be avoided.

However, this is very much not the case.

According to Joshua Melanson, an organic farmer at Pumpkin Pond Farm, “there is absolutely nothing wrong with the kale. The flea beetle creates small holes but doesn’t transmit any disease. There is simply less kale.”

Apparently, it isn’t just kale that flea beetles like to feast on. They feed on all types of brassica, such as mustard greens, arugula, broccoli and cabbage, and are very common in organic cropping.

Farmers can avoid having holes in the kale by covering the crops each night, a very cumbersome process, or by spraying them with super-toxic synthetic pesticides, something that organic farmers cannot do.


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  1. Great article, and I agree completely! I also think that if a bug thought it was that delicious and nutritious, then it’s probably the tastiest selection for me, too :)

    Written by Alexandra on May 15, 2012 @ 8:28 am
  2. Hi Alexandra,

    Great point! Thanks for your feedback.

    Live well,

    Written by Max Goldberg on May 15, 2012 @ 9:43 am
  3. I love this! If an insect was eating on it, that means it’s definitely a nutritious plant and I should be so lucky getting to eat it also :)

    Written by Alexandra on March 4, 2013 @ 4:20 pm
  4. I agree Alexandra!

    Written by Max Goldberg on March 7, 2013 @ 2:07 pm
  5. Consumers get so used to perfect looking food that so much food gets wasted in the end. There needs to be more education on the topic.

    Written by gardenerd on May 13, 2013 @ 10:32 pm
  6. Hi Mel,

    I agree with you completely! Hopefully, this article opened some eyes.

    Live well,

    Written by Max Goldberg on May 15, 2013 @ 11:04 pm
  7. Thanks for the article… My kale is just flourishing in the garden this year, except for the holes in it… I thought as long as I wash off any bugs (which I can’t seem to find anyway) it should be fine, right? I’m glad to see others have the same notion.. :)

    Written by Tina Marie on July 26, 2013 @ 7:23 am
  8. My pleasure Tina Marie!! Glad to hear your kale is flourishing!!

    Live well,

    Written by Max Goldberg on July 31, 2013 @ 2:35 pm
  9. My Dino Kale gets attacked by Cabbage Moth caterpillars. The birds and Praying Mantis eat some of them but for total control I use BT which can be washed off before eating.

    Written by Mitchel on May 14, 2014 @ 2:08 pm
  10. thank you! I assumed it was snails. I put so much kale in my compost yesterday. Bummer. Now I will pick twice as much kale and eat it all!

    Written by Pam on June 1, 2014 @ 5:01 pm
  11. Last year was my first year of gardening and the flea Beatles were my worst problem… I am hoping diatomaceous earth will fix this problem this year. Along with the stink Beatles that loved my basil.

    Written by Andrea on May 11, 2015 @ 12:22 pm
  12. Tell me about it. I was growing loads of kale in intensive boxes in my garden and no matter what I did, put up nets, went to catch them in nets, etc. they were devouring the kale. But I am not sure that I can agree with what the folks at Pumpkin Pond Farm say. My experience was that there was a big difference in the vitality of my kale before the flea beetle was eating it. It seems to me that only weakened plants get infestations, just as only weakened immune systems in human beings open the way for diseases. Something is out of balance with the soil or the whole ecology of the garden.

    Written by Susanne Lien on May 11, 2015 @ 10:10 pm

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