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Nature · Economy

'Ugly Fruits' want to change the way we think about vegetables.

September 25th, 2013
in:Nature, Economy
by:Itai Lahat
located in:United Kingdom
tags:fruit, Green Economy, ugly fruit, vegetables

Everyone who shops in farmer markets and organic shops, knows that fruits and vegetables are not always pretty. A wave of new campaigns aim to convince us not to judge a our veg by their covers.

Tomatoes are not always red, but often orange, yellow, purple, even striped. Carrots and parsnips sometimes have multiple points or shapely-looking ‘legs’ that make them challenging to peel. Unsprayed mustard greens, kale, and arugula can be full of little pinholes from nibbling bugs, but it doesn’t affect their taste or nutrition, just aesthetic appeal.

By many supermarket’s aesthetic standards, a great number of field grown veggies are visual misfits – too ugly to display on your average high-street supermarket’s astro-turfed pedal stall.We’ve got used to having straight carrots, shiny perfect bodied strawberries and aesthetically pleasing potatoes. And this is driven by a powerful supermarkets who suggest that you the customer wouldn’t be able to bear it any other way.

The result is that we have an incredibly wasteful food system: for example, in the UK the Soil Association suggests that 20-40 percent of produce is rejected because it is misshapen. If you wonder why the produce doesn’t get used for canned goods or processed foods rather than being sent to the landfill, NRDC’s report on the wasteful American food system has the answer, “Although some off-grade products — those that are not of a quality grade to sell to major markets – go to processing, many do not. Most large processors have advanced contracts with suppliers and often require specific attributes that make the product amenable to processing,” it explains.

An estimated 90,000 tons of produce in the U.K. goes to landfill sites annually, all because customers associate ‘ugly’ with ‘defective.’ Supermarkets aren’t doing much to change this erroneous association, but then it’s also the fault of shallow shoppers.

However, there is a growing movement to promote and sell ‘ugly’ produce. This is partly a result of an unusually cold spring in the UK, which has yielded farmers such an overwhelming number of „funny-looking“ vegetables to sell, that many supermarkets say they’ll relax their standards this year.

In 2012, Sainsbury committed to taking 100 percent of British farmers’ crops, regardless of appearance. Other people are opting for ugly produce in an effort to reverse the unsustainable practice of throwing it all out.

Three German students have begun an “Ugly Fruits” campaign, aimed at getting misshapen produce back into German households. They’d eventually like to see “ugly fruits” supermarkets that sell all the produce rejected by other chains. (Check out this amusing clip they made of ugly produce.) A Berlin based catering company called Culinary Misfits uses only misshapen produce: “It’s good food that’s even more interesting because it doesn’t exist in the usual supermarket and restaurant range. These vegetables are more like pieces of art,” co-owner Lea Brumsack explained to The Guardian.

Article written by:
Itai Lahat
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