Ugly Fruits and Veggies … Beauty is Only Skin Deep

As you start to harvest fruits and veggies from your home or community garden, it is very likely that you will come across an “imperfect” one. Perhaps it is a misshapen radish, a deformed strawberry, or a cracked tomato. More commonly known as ugly fruits and veggies, they are cosmetically not quite the same as their “perfect” counterparts typically found in your supermarket. So what do you do? Consider joining a movement around the world to reduce food waste by simplying enjoying them rather than tossing them into your composter.

2015-07-29_UglyCarrot(1)(MJ)_edIn the past few years, there has been increasing awareness about the amount of food waste generated at each step of the food system and the associated environmental, social, and economic impacts. It is estimated that globally, 1.3 billion tons or one third of food production for human consumption is wasted.[1]  While such staggering numbers make headlines, the spotlight seems to shine on the ugly fruits and veggies that are finally finding their way to store shelves. According to the FAO, fruits and vegetables are wasted more than any other food.[2] In Canada, this amounts to 25 million tons.[3]

Some retailers are taking action to reduce the waste of these healthy foods, and the public appears to be welcoming it. In 2014, for example, the third largest supermarket chain in France, Intermarché, sparked enormous interest with the launch of its Cannes-winning inglorious fruits and vegetables marketing campaign. Following on the heels of this success, the retailer introduced its ugly biscuit campaign in 2015. Other big name supermarkets around the world are relaxing their rules on cosmetically challenged fresh produce including Sainsbury in the UK, Woolworths in Australia, and more recently Whole Foods in California. Closer to home, Loblaws launched its No Name Naturally Imperfect pilot project in 2015, offering its consumers imperfect apples and potatoes at a 30% discount in some of its Ontario and Quebec stores. Like Intermarché, its programme has been a success and is now being rolled out across Canada with an expanded line of ugly veggies.[4]

So if you find imperfect fruits and veggies in your backyard, balcony, or community garden, don’t be shy about trying them. Add the fruits of your labour to juices, soups, and sauces; preserve them; or savour them fresh with your family and friends. These fruits and veggies with character make great conversation pieces, too!

[1] Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO). (2016). SAVE FOOD: Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction.

[2] FAO. (n.d.). Key facts on food loss and waste you should know.

[3] Krashinsky, S. (2014, July 31). Ugly fruit campaign prompts consumers to rethink what they buy.

[4] The Canadian Press. (2016, March 3). Imperfect groceries can make perfect sense for budget shoppers, Loblaws program bets.