Baby I Was Born This Way…The Truth About Ugly Produce

Conversations over “Cinderella produce” are trending across the globe right now. The largest reason for that is due to the “Ugly Food Movement” and the prevention of food loss and waste in supermarkets.

Credit for the so-called Ugly Food Movement can be given to the editor-in-chief of Food & Wine Magazine, Dana Cowin. Cowin says, “The ugly food movement embraces the potential of funny-looking or smaller-sized fruits, vegetables, and other wild-looking edibles. If, as consumers, we can change our mindset so we see gnarled, twisted, lumpy or otherwise imperfect produce as beautiful, we can create demand, change the system, and ultimately help feed the world.”

Food waste is no joke, and the marketing of so called “ugly” good is one answer to the problem. Many organizations are already making great strides in changing the way we look at (and buy) produce. Whether it’s delivering boxes of ugly produce direct to doorsteps or selling it at a discounted rate in the supermarkets, the momentum is building to bring more perfectly good, imperfect produce to the table.

Awareness on food waste is not only gaining momentum within organizations, but its become a prevalent topic within government and policy as well. By 2030, the United Nations aims to cut the world’s waste at the retail level in HALF by developing more sustainable consumption and production patterns. While this isn’t a complete, perfect or quick solution, it’s a start.

Imperfect produce is good for more than just driving down food waste, it gives options to families that are looking to save money and have greater accessibility to healthy foods. The “uglier” version of a fruit or vegetable costs up to 30-50% less than its better-looking counterpart.

Another factor that contributes to the global problem of food waste is the general lack of knowledge on edible vs. rotten food in our own refrigerators. We tend to think something has gone bad based on its “sell-by” date or the brown spots on its skin.  Historically, hunter-gatherer tribes would have sat around a fire teaching their children how to tell which foods were safe to eat versus others. However, as we spend less time in the kitchen and even less time preparing our own meals, it leaves a lot of people feeling less confident in recognizing which foods are safe to eat and how to best prepare them.

How Can You Join The Ugly Food Movement?

EAT YOUR VEGETABLES. Many vegetables can actually be stored in water in the fridge to keep them from getting dehydrated and floppy. If you can’t save the limp veggies, try using them for soup stock instead.

USE YOUR NOSE. It’s pretty easy to recognize when something has gone bad just by smelling it. Take an extra minute before tossing your strawberries or cashew milk in the garage and sniff it out.

BAKE WITH FRUIT. Everyone’s a fan of a full-flavored banana bread. Where do you think the flavour comes from? As fruits ripen, they produce enzymes that actually start breaking the fruit down into more simple sugars, producing a sweeter and more flavourful fruit. Use your ripe fruits for your next batch of muffins or fruit bread.

MAKE SOUP STOCK. The process of making soup stock begins ahead of time. Whether you’re stashing discarded ends of veggies in a container or saving the leftovers from the night before, making soup stock is an easy way to avoid food waste and an easy way to meal prep.