The craziest thing I have ever found in my salad

On Thursday night, Kim brought home some spinach. I washed the spinach bunch very thoroughly — still bundled, though. Then I sliced the top inch or so off the bunch. I noticed nothing strange. I ate salad. Life went on.

Last night I got the spinach out the fridge for another salad. Right away I noticed something grey-brown nestled between the leaves. I looked closer: a LARGE, winged insectile abdomen was protruding slightly from the sharp cut I had made the night before. In fact, it was instantly clear that the tips of the wings had been sliced off … into last night’s salad. Mmmm.

It was also moving! One hind leg suddenly sprang free — about a couple inches long and as thick as a paper clip. The leg scrambled for purchase on the loose spinach. It was clearly alive and trying to free itself from its spinachy hell. But, whatever it was, it was still quite tightly wedged, head first, into the bunch.

All this quickly generated the kind of household excitement that only a truly mastodonic bug can generate. “Um, Kim! Get in here! Now!” I yelled this in the same commanding tone of voice that you would use if your hair was on fire and you needed to solicit aid instantly and with no back talk or silly questions.

Kim couldn’t actually really bring herself to stay in the kitchen with me, the spinach and the squirming abdomen.

Heart racing, I carefully teased the monster out of the spinach trap and into a tumbler. It was a praying mantis! Bear in mind that a praying mantis is a powerful predatory insect: a bug with significant heft that can and does attack, kill and eat small animals. I felt the fear.

And this mantis had survived ignominous near strangulation by some farm worker (or machine) in Santa Barbara county, shipment to Canada, a walk across downtown Vancouver, extensive rinsing, slight amputation, and refrigeration. And it still had considerable spunk. (“You want a piece of me?” “Um, actually, I had a piece of you. Last night. In my salad.” “Oh, right …”)

I have no idea if it is capable of surviving in the courtyard garden, which was the closest “natural” space where we could release it. On the one hand, it is far from home and wounded. On the other hand, it struck me as one tough bug. It’s not really hard to imagine it mugging any number of lesser bugs within minutes of release. It may be fine. For all I know, it will still be terrorizing the courtyard garden for the next several months.