The Year of the Ugly Fruits and Vegetables

Just because a vegetable or piece of fruit has spots or blemishes doesn't mean it's ready for the dumpster!

Whether you call them surplus, excess, seconds or just plain ugly, these are the fruits and vegetables that usually go to waste because they’re not considered perfect. Over 6 billion pounds of produce every year is thrown away — that’s about enough to fill four NFL stadiums. With 50 million people in America being food-insecure, there is a way to help reduce waste and feed more people.

What Is Ugly Produce?

I discovered the term “ugly” fruits and vegetables at a Hidden Valley media event that took place at Tom Colicchio’s New York City restaurant Craft. Colicchio is a big advocate of using excess (or ugly produce) and gave a fantastic cooking demonstration. While I was eating Colicchio’s delicious food, the man across from me was explaining what ugly produce is. Some produce has cosmetic imperfections and may not have a size, shape or color that fits the criteria required by conventional retailers. The apples may be “too small” or the cucumbers have a “weird curve.” Instead of making it to your grocery store shelf, this healthy, tasty and nutritious produce is tossed!

Another reason produce may become surplus is when a grower may not be able to find someone to purchase the crop, or a retailer may overorder, leaving extra produce for the grower to sell.

Where Can You Buy It?

Evan Lutz, CEO and co-founder of Hungry Harvest, was on a mission to create a business that had impact. He decided to recover the surplus produce that would be thrown away and sell it in the D.C. and Baltimore area. Business is booming (he was on Shark Tank), and Hungry Harvest has expanded to Maryland, Virginia and Philadelphia, and is coming to New York City soon. Hungry Harvest has a waitlist of 3,000 people who want surplus produce delivered to their doorstep. I was lucky enough to receive a complimentary delivery of Hungry Harvest produce, and it was fresh, tasty and even better than most produce I pick up weekly at my local market. “Most people can’t tell the difference between store-bought and ours,” says Lutz. As the saying goes, don’t judge a book by its cover. It’s what’s inside that really matters.

Imperfect Foods is another seller of surplus produce, located on the West Coast. And if you grow your own and have too much (let’s say your peach tree just keeps on giving), instead of wasting it you can sell it on Ripe Near Me.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled

The idea of enjoying imperfect produce is becoming popular as more folks are trying to reduce food waste. Next time you see an imperfect apple, pear or orange, give it a try — it probably tastes better than you think.

Photo courtesy of Hungry Harvest

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

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