Which would you prefer? A perfectly round flawless tomato or, for 30% less money, a tomato with some funky lumps and bumps? Many people tend to avoid the “ugly” produce, even though they are often as tasty and nutritious as the ones that look like they should be on the front cover of a magazine.
Just look at the lines at the farmers’ markets…the “perfect” tomatoes are the most popular -- and tend to have much longer lines than those that are “cosmetically challenged!”
This past weekend, we bought some “cosmetically challenged” peaches at the farmers’ market for only $1/pound, when the other "perfect" looking peaches were $3.50/pound! Do you think these $1.00 peaches were any less delicious or nutritious than their $3.50 friends?
They both came from the same farm and same trees...but the funky-shaped weird looking peaches just didn't look quite as "perfect!" By the time they ended up in our Peach-Covered Pork Chops and our Peach and Blueberry Crumble, trust me, no one knew the difference…those “ugly” peaches tasted absolutely amazing!
Our expectations. Many of us have certain expectations when it comes to produce and we want it to look a certain way. We have grown accustomed to thinking...if fruits and vegetables look strange, they must be bad, or something must be wrong with them. Take tomatoes for example. Why do tomatoes at many supermarkets and restaurants look appealing, but taste so “bland?” You know the ones…that strange, crunchy variety you find on your burger at some restaurants. Or the ones that look so tantalizing and perfect at the store, but just don’t deliver when you get them home, slice them and find them lacking flavor.
Why is this? A big reason is many commercially-produced tomatoes have been bred for high yield, durability and a certain “look”…not flavor. Those who produce and sell these tomatoes want them to be visually appealing, disease resistant, have a long shelf-life and be durable and uniform in shape to make them easier to transport. That is a tall order! They also want them to ripen evenly…to become ripe all at once to achieve “the look” (which is NOT how an “explode in your mouth” tomato normally ripens). Often, these commercially-produced tomatoes are picked while they are green and immature, and then sprayed with gases to help turn them red. Then, they may be refrigerated during transit, killing whatever flavor may have existed. So, not only are these tomatoes missing that “popping” flavor, but they are also deficient in nutrition compared to the farm or home grown tomato that is naturally ripened and picked just before adding it into your meal. See more in our blog Life's Too Short to Eat Bland Tomatoes!
When we first began our REAL food journey and started shopping at the Farmers’ Market, we quickly realized the farm-fresh flavors (even if some cosmetic challenges exist) go way above and beyond the flavors you find at the supermarkets from the "perfect looking" produce!
Actually, some of our most flavorful produce has come from the most funky looking fruits and veggies!
So, for us, we take advantage and love the great deals on the “ugly” produce!
- Flavor! Whether it is a curly cucumber, funky looking zucchini, an alien-like tomato or a dented peach...the mouth-watering flavor is still there!
- Nutrition! The cosmetically challenged fruits and veggies are still loaded with nutrition!
- Cost! The “ugly” produce is often 30% to 50% cheaper (or more)!
- Less waste! Get this…every year, six billion (yes, 6,000,000,000) pounds of fruits and vegetables go to waste…mostly because they are “too ugly” and don’t meet certain cosmetic standards. Believe it or not, 20% to 40% of all produce is literally thrown away because of its shape, size, color or appearance. That is a lot of wasted REAL food! There is now an “ugly food movement” that is starting to develop thanks to companies like Imperfect. This California-based company buys cosmetically challenged produce from farmers and sells it at a discount to consumers in northern California. They are also working with the supermarket chain Raley’s to sell this “wonky looking” produce at some of its northern California stores. What a great concept -- farmers get extra income, consumers save money and less food is wasted! Hopefully this concept will make its way all across the U.S.!
We hope this helps you embrace imperfections (since we all have them) and think more open-mindedly about those funny-looking fruits and vegetables! Enjoy those incredibly delicious flavors, no matter what the outside looks like...remember, it's what's on the inside that counts!
"Why fit in when you were born to stand out?" - Dr. Seuss