Fresh fruits, vegetables and grains are, in their natural
unprocessed state, kosher and pareve. They do not need kashrut certification and can be used with either dairy or meat. However, once a vegetable is combined with a dairy or meat product, it becomes dairy or meat respectively.
Processed vegetables such as those canned or frozen may pose
a problem. They are sometimes creamed and may contain nonkosher, dairy or meat
ingredients; or they may have been processed in vessels used for meat, dairy, or
even non-kosher products.
A more common problem with vegetables involves possible
insect infestation. The prohibition against consuming insects, even very tiny
ones -- as long as they are visible to the naked eye -- is mentioned five times in the Torah and is very strict. In recent years, due to federal regulations restricting insecticide spraying and genetic changes causing some insects to become more resistant to the insecticides, there are increasing amounts of insects such as thrips and aphids infesting some vegetables, especially green and leafy
varieties. Although quite small, they are visible to the naked eye and must be
removed. Aphids range in size from 2 -5 millimeters (1/16 - 1/8 of an inch).
Many vegetables, fruits, nuts, and grains must be checked
before cooking or eating for the presence of small insects. Packages of pasta
are also occasionally infested. Some particularly severe problem vegetables are
artichokes, asparagus, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and leafy vegetables.
The method of checking depends on the vegetables. Leafy
vegetables such as cabbage and lettuce should be checked leaf by leaf. Washing
under running water or soaking in salt water is helpful, but the vegetables must
also be inspected under a bright light, either daylight or artificial light.
Certain vegetables, such as celery and zucchini may be used after they are
washed under running water and scrubbed with a vegetable brush.
The degree to which insects are present varies according to the region,
season, and origin of the produce. If it is known that a certain variety is
infested, either avoid it for that season or examine it very carefully to remove