Fruits and Veggies Imperfect by Nature

Imperfect vegetables

It’s always been a rule in my family, spoken or unspoken, that you don’t waste food. With six children herself and having grown up in an even larger family through the Great Depression, my mother would never tolerate throwing out the amounts of food we see routinely these days in the dumpster. We were told simply to clean our plates, no matter whether we liked the taste or if we were not hungry or not. So this subject is deep in my genes and upbringing.

Estimates are that nearly one third of all food produced is wasted. USDA estimates 31% of food available at retail level is wasted. 12% of landfill material is food. 28% of agricultural land produces food which is wasted, says the FAO.   29% of the citrus crop, 18% of vegetables, and 12% of the apple crop are lost at the farm level in the United States., say experts.  

In Europe, there’s an “ugly food” movement picking up steam. Supermarkets feature the uglies. It’s chic. Eat Five a Day Wierd Fruits and Veggies “Ugly” foods are those that sellers and buyers often reject because of their appearance, like misshapen vegetables and bruised fruits. Farmers dump them. Supermarkets and restaurants reject them. Consumers historically have avoided them.   More artful terms are favored. A French supermarket chain is selling “inglorious” foods. The British chain ASDA uses “wonky” (which to American ears might sound as bad as “ugly.”) Canada’s Loblaws uses “naturally imperfect.” Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who has cast himself as a promoter of the “good food movement,” has signed on with some British chains to support their efforts.  

With the Kretschmann Farm CSA’s we’ve taken the line that rather than throw away things which would be classified by others as ugly, inglorious, or imperfect, we would just give them to you and you could decide. Either we throw them away, or you can. Oftentimes this adds to the volume of the box, or makes it a little more urgent to consume (because sometimes those rejected foods are just very ripe!).  

Some comments on particular crops: Peppers: Nearly everyone loves those sweet red bell peppers. These are simply green bells which have fully ripened. The trouble is that it can take a full month to ripen to red, during which time it’s typical to lose half to 2/3 of the peppers—some to pepper worms, some to sunburn, some to soil rot, and others to deer or groundhogs. So that’s why many farmers just would rather pick them green. Often there’s a red pepper with a sunburn spot on it, or it’s a little shriveled from heat, or is rotted on the tip. To me, who loves red peppers, it’s no big deal to trim around these and eat the sweet flesh which remains—and such a crying shame to throw the whole thing away. Apples: These are decidedly difficult to grow organically in the East. There are literally only a handful of growers. Size is apt to be smaller than one is used to seeing in the grocery store because thinning is very labor intensive without chemical thinners. It’s hard to describe all the various imperfections which occur, but a good paring knife is not that difficult to employ compared to the alternatives or going without. For baking, one pares the apples anyway. Tomatoes: We wash and sort all our tomatoes. We sort them into greens and reds—less mature and mature. Within a short time the “greens” turn red. We try to mix the maturities when giving tomatoes to subscribers so they have some for a longer period of time, but sometimes the volume overwhelms us—or hot weather can bring them all into maturity quickly. When we get overwhelmed with ripe tomatoes, we pile them into our CSA boxes. Ripe and soft tomatoes are perfect for making quick and easy sauces. More to come…