This time of year, my most prized culinary possession isn’t my Wüsthof chefs knife, my pesto-whirring food processor, my wooden ginger grater bought at a stoop sale, not even my dough-kneading, cream-whipping KitchenAid stand mixer. No, by late summer, the kitchen tool I swear by isn’t even something I cook with.
It’s my fruit fly trap.
About nine months a year, this thing gathers dust in a cabinet but every summer for over a decade, it’s saved my CSA shares and market haul. Time was, I’d load up on August’s heirloom tomatoes and juicy “sink” peaches only to see a cloud of tiny fruit flies descend from the skies like a plague from the Old Testament. The more aromatic and ambrosial the crop, the bigger the bug crowd. And I know better than to put raw tomatoes in the fridge—which is too full of summer squash, Kirby cukes, swiss chard and heritage chicken to make room for all my market quarts anyway—but the counter was its own danger zone.
That’s because I’m not the only one who finds August produce a huge turn-on—fruit flies use ripe flesh as a mating ground. One night I reached for a tomato only to discover a tiny fruit fly maggot writhing out of its skin, hatched from the cursed insects. I ordered takeout.
Like any New Yorker without air conditioning, I had plunked down good money for a fancy fan, but soon transferred it from bedroom to kitchen, where I’d realized a gale-force setting, pointed right at my market spoils, would keep the plague away, even as I sweated in bed.
But one day the heavens smiled on me in the form of a “wasp trap” for sale on Martha Stewart’s website. Pretty, pear-shaped glass with a lobster-trap-like opening in the bottom and a stoppered top, it was clearly a good thing. Would it work on fruit flies? Hell yes. The ironic answer, it turns out, is not to drive fruit flies away, but rather to draw them in. I keep a little splash of vinegar in there—evidently fruit flies find it even more crack-like than fruit itself—and a good 90% of them are lured in, never to emerge again. Martha doesn’t stock this genius item any more, but you can make your own out of a glass and a piece of paper.
Dinner guests might recoil from what looks like a lab experiment, but as far as I’m concerned, my fruit fly trap is the most beautiful object in my kitchen.