When a US mother and daighter unwrapped a package of organic salad greens from the refrigerator earlier this month, they were surprised to find a live, 7.5cm female anole lizard included. After reviving it, the daughter brought the lizard to school, where it was installed in teacher Mark Eastburn’s science lab as a class mascot. The students named it ‘Green Fruit Loop’.
Eastburn says in his blog that Green Fruit Loop first came out of the fridge in a “cold coma”. She was still, cold and grayish in colour after having been chilled at a low temperature for several days, but quickly recovered with some warmth and moisture.
“Almost immediately, questions started springing up among the kindergarten students,” Eastburn says. “Where did it come from? How did it get into the leaves? What does it eat?”
Over the course of the day, several adults expressed disgust over the possibility that a little lizard might show up in their salad, while most children - and also me, and the parents who found this anole - expressed excitement and interest.”
Eastburn says Green Fruit Loop was a good reminder that most food is still grown outdoors, and also a “nice testament” to pesticide-free foods and their minimal impact on the environment.
“We do not produce food in sterile environments free of wildlife; our food comes from patches of land that were once natural habitat for many creatures.”
Anole lizards are native to North America and are most abundant in the southeastern parts of the continent. Their preferred habitat is moist forests and brushy clearings – presumably, a salad plantation is also attractive to them.
Salad seems to be a particularly attractive medium for insects and small animals intent on ending up in bowls: recent international news headlines have mentioned a decomposed frog and a “mangled” baby weasel in salads. Closer to home, a weta, a wasp, a cockroach, maggots and multiple mice have found themselves packaged into Kiwi meals.
The retailer who handled Green Fruit Loop’s salad greens, Mike Atkinson from Whole Earth Centre, was unperturbed by the discovery. On Facebook, he said: “While not everyone would want to find a lizard in their greens, it's a nice reminder that the organic farming process is safe for even the smallest creatures.”