Why ugly food doesn’t make the cut

Discrimination can be found many places, but it’s a hard stretch to think it’s a practice that is alive, well and flourishing in the greengrocer.

The practice is rife. Australian consumers eat with their eyes, resulting in an estimated 20 to 30 per cent of fresh fruit and veggies deemed waste before it even leaves the farm. Every year, Australian consumers condemn countless tonnes of perfectly good fresh produce to waste simply because it doesn’t look right.

Peaches that have slight leaf rub, an apple that didn’t reach its fighting weight, melons with sunburn and capsicum that were caught out in a hailstorm, all bear the marks of Mother Nature and all will be rejected because they don’t exhibit the qualities we look for – a tray of polished, shiny congruent objects.

Perfection on the plate is something we should leave for the professionals to seek. For the family dinner a different set of criteria should apply. Taste is paramount and ugly fruit and veg can deliver on this. And in meals such as bolognaise, soft, roast eggplant filled with paprika spiked lamb mince, or soup, how the ingredients look is not important.

Chinks of light are appearing at the end of the tunnel and self-appointed food ambassadors are on the move, challenging all of us who buy food to resist judging food as you would a model or film star, by its looks, and introduce a little gravitas. As the saying goes, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover and so it should be for your everyday potato.

Last year, the Youth Food Movement’s Crop Fest project shone a light on the problem. They staged workshops where the ugly, misshapen and contorted took centre stage. Meals were cooked and consumed and leftovers were donated to OzHarvest for distribution to the hungry – and, the world didn’t stop. Or even shimmy or shake.

The message? Use the whole crop and yep, that means the beautiful, the bruised and the plain old ugly.

The big guys have gotten wind of the change in consumer’s mood. The largest supermarket in France, Intermarche, started an Inglorious fruits and vegetable campaign. Locally, Harris Farm Markets have a small display of ‘Imperfect Picks’ and even the fresh food people have put The Odd Bunch on display.

Take heart in the knowledge that some fruit and vegetables deemed too ugly to be seen in public live on in chutneys, pickles, canned, tinned and frozen foods. And, let’s hear a cheer for all the cooks who collect windfall, orchard seconds and veggies that will never win the lead part in a pizza commercial and make something tasty and nutritious out of them, for sale, as gifts or as a store for the leaner months.

Words: Barbara Sweeney

Image: Jypsygen

Our prejudice against supposedly ‘unattractive’ food was one of the inspirations behind the TEDxSydney 2015 food theme – Rebel Food – which celebrated the good, the bad and the ugly. Watch more about that HERE

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