Ugly Food

Don’t judge a book by its cover. Beauty is only skin deep. It’s what’s on the inside that counts.

With the summer/local produce season upon us, I wanted to remind you that those expressions apply to produce as well as people. Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon, the folks who wrote the book behind the 100 Mile Diet, address this issue on their site. One of their 13 Farmer’s Market Tips is quite topical:

Buy ugly food–strange looking fruits and vegetables are often heritage varieties bred for taste rather than shelf life or visual appeal.

Just to clarify, they’re not advocating you buy ugli fruit, a Jamaican grapefruit-tangerine hybrid. Instead, they offer a timely reminder that odd-looking produce isn’t necessarily bad. In fact, it can be good!

I’ll go one step further: the uniform fruits, vegetables and tubers we see in supermarkets are a result of a food-chain-wide culling of all things heterogeneous. From farms, to wholesalers to retailers, anything too small or big, the wrong shape or color isn’t harvested or is thrown out. The homogenous displays at, say, a Whole Foods are a result of much wasting.

On that note, here’s a question (and article) to ponder: Does a misshapen potato taste different?

The same logic holds true with imperfect items on sale at the supermarket and in your refrigerator. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve trimmed a moldy spot to reveal a perfectly healthy fruit or vegetable. Bruised apples and browning limes and spotted bananas come to mind. From now on, let’s call this the Ugly (or ugli) Fruit Effect:

 ugli fruit

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