Rant - July 17, 2006 - Jack

Visually Imperfect Produce

While I was catching up on reading Treehugger.com posts, I came across this article: "Ugly Fruit Movement Could Help Organic Farmers"

This jogged a memory...a couple of times a friend has kindly brought over huge bags of avocados. His father is an avocado grower in the Central Valley of California. My friend says his Dad can't sell these because they're a bit smaller than the standard size for Haas avocados. When he told me that, I just looked at him like he was crazy. How could such a thing be? He says, they aren't accepted by distributors unless they are of a certain size. (And have you noticed, as I have since, that almost all Haas avocados in grocery stores are of a certain size...)

More recently, I was at the Outstanding in the Field event at County Line Farm in Petaluma. David (the owner) was giving us a detailed tour of his farm (he leases the land, btw!)... He pointed out his baby arugula to us. He has to keep it covered with plastic for 100% of it's in-ground time because otherwise the flea beetle will put tiny holes in the leaves, rendering it visually imperfect - otherwise there's zero wrong with it. But those holes make it unsaleable. Apparently no one wants to eat a salad in a restaurant where the lettuces have tiny holes in them... or at least the restaurants/chefs believe that.

This then made me more interested in my choices when I went shopping. How often do you find bugs in organic produce at Whole Foods compared to organic produce directly from a farm? Marked tomatoes, scarred apples, worms in the corn. How often in any grocery store do you find fresh produce which doesn't look perfect (other than "frost-kissed" artichokes)?

As the Ugly Fruit movement article (linked above) says, some of this less-than-visually-perfect produce goes into making juice. I would guess some must go into processed food. But what is the fate of the rest? And just how much are we talking about?

When and how did WE become such big babies about produce? Why do we FEAR bugs in and blemishes on produce? When did we stop even being given a choice to make the selection ourselves?

Ugly Tomato
Apple with scar blemishes
Melon with a hole in it
Cucumber with mottled skin

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