Jul 28, 2014

Why Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables are Important

Not long ago, I was on a gardening forum where someone asked if it was okay to eat produce with holes in
it. "My family says no, because bugs have been eating it," the man typed. This received a variety of replies, but only one respondent typed what I was thinking: "Well, if you don't want to eat veggies with holes nibbled in them, you can go and buy some poison, sprinkle it on your food, kill all those nasty bugs, and you'll have 'perfect' little veggies to eat."

* * *

Last year, my mom- and sister-in-law attended a class on orchard keeping. At the beginning of the class, the teacher asked everyone to come forward and choose an apple from a box on his desk. When every student had done so, all the perfect-looking apples were gone, and all the imperfect apples - those that were misshaped or had worm holes - were left in the box. "Until this changes - until people start choosing and buying produce that's less than perfect, organic food will not become the norm," the teacher said.

* * *

Did you know that in the U.S., 40 - 50% of all food that's ready for commercial harvest never gets eaten? Some of this is due to modern methods of harvesting - machines that don't take corners well, for example. (Which, incidentally has lead to a rise in the biblical practice of gleaning - not a bad thing!) But a good portion of that is food that's misshapen or otherwise considered imperfect - for example, carrots with two or more roots - and are just thrown away.

* * *

Last week, I saw an encouraging news story. In France, one supermarket chain is putting an end to this kind of food waste - and helping consumers reduce their food bills, too. They are taking all that imperfect produce ("inglorious fruits and vegetables," they call them) and putting them on their shelves at reduced prices. And the French are eating them up! So much so, the chain is having trouble keeping enough "inglorious" produce in stock.

And while the news story doesn't mention it, the acceptance of less than perfect produce opens the door wide to more - and more affordable - organic produce. Why? Because organic practices lead to more bug nibbles - and because an item like a perfect-looking organic apple takes many more man hours to produce, and therefore costs much more than conventionally grown apples.

What do you think? Are you willing to eat imperfect food in order to end food waste and make organic more affordable?


  1. I think I'm more willing to do it than other members of my family. Of course, when I'm growing my own tomatoes, I'll keep ones with blossom-end rot for saucing--I just cut the affected area off.

  2. We have always gardened and are used to just cutting away any bad parts. Last week I bought the imperfect peppers marked down at the farmer's market and was able to buy more that way. We as humans aren't perfect, what gives us the mindset that everything around us is supposed to be?

  3. I am willing to eat less than perfect produce. One time I went to the grocery store and they had some cilantro spoiling, good black. I offered to buy all they had for half price. You know what the manager told "Sorry, can't do that." So I guess they rather have the spoiled food on the shelf than sold. :( Some managers are just not smart. (Don't have to buy cilantro anymore. Thanks to you I am now growing my own!)

    BTW, I made your chocolate cake with zucchini recipe. It was so good BUT instead of zucchini I used my crooked neck yellow squash. I also used 1 cup of butter, didn't use the olive oil at all. It turned out great. A tip for anyone wanting to try: make sure you grate your veggies in the finer grater. I used a handy grater and grated the veggies on the coarser side. You could see the veggies when you put it in the batter. I was afraid that it would be seen once the cake was baked. Not so! But for safe measure, if you have picky eaters, grate the veggies on the fine grater. :)

    You awesome recipe was a birthday cake!! :) TFS!!

  4. Tereza, some stores will give away produce that's spoiling, or so I hear. Ours gives it to a company that turns it into compost and they flat won't give it to shoppers. They probably have a contract with them that prevents them from donating the food elsewhere.

    GREAT news about the summer squash cake! Thank you for letting me know how it turned out. I will quote you in the original recipe post :)