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Commentary: Support ugly produce, which are just as good as their counterparts

Commentary: Support ugly produce, which are just as good as their counterparts
August 24
01:40 2017

By Lynne Mitchell

Guest Columnist

When you garden, you see the wonders of nature at work.  In addition to growing the picture-perfect pepper, eggplant or squash, you may also come across a carrot that looks like a pair of legs, a boomerang-shaped cucumber, or a sweet potato that looks like an inchworm making its way down a path. 

Many of these produce misfits give us a good chuckle for their funny appearance and have been coined “ugly” in popular food culture. 

Although oddball in appearance, these items are packed with the same nutrition and taste as their more attractive counterparts.  Yet, you generally don’t see them on store shelves – so, where does this produce go? 

Produce that is blemished, misshapen, or the wrong size is often thrown out as it doesn’t meet the USDA minimum quality grade standards. According to the USDA, food waste is the single largest component going into municipal landfills.  Additionally, the majority of fruit and vegetable food waste took place in homes and away-from-home eating places – not in the grocery store. 

Recognizing the problem, some countries, like France, are offering less than perfect produce to customers with fun marketing campaigns.  The third largest supermarket chain in France, Intermarche, introduced a successful “Inglorious Fruit and Vegetable” campaign in 2014.  These funny looking foods not only have their own aisle, they are celebrated as misfit superstars in the media with names like “the grotesque apple,” “the failed lemon,” “the disfigured eggplant,” “the ugly carrot” and the “unfortunate clementine.”  An added bonus for consumers, inglorious fruits and veggies cost less than their picture-perfect counterparts.

In San Francisco, Imperfect Produce, a subscription produce delivery program, sells imperfect produce in produce boxes to people in the Bay area at a price lower than one would pay for grocery store produce.  Imperfect Produce gets their produce directly from farmers.  There are even online petitions you can sign to support the sale of ugly produce!

As consumers, we need to embrace ugly produce as healthy and nutritious. We, with our high standards for produce, are part of the problem.  It is time for us to accept all produce, shapely or not, as wholesome, healthy and nutritious!  Don’t be afraid to ask the farmer at the Farmers Market or grocery store produce manager for ugly produce.  Let them know that you support the ugly produce movement and want to reduce food waste.

Lynne M. Mitchell MS, RD, LDN is Community Nutritionist with the Forsyth County Department of Public Health (www.forsyth.cc/publichealth). You can reach her at 336-703-3216 (direct line) or mitchelm@nullforsyth.cc.

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