Ugly Produce Is Making a Comeback

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The abundance of rejected, ugly produce is becoming a global issue. Twenty percent of perfectly edible and nutritious produce currently goes to waste each year simply because it’s deemed too unattractive to sell due to an odd shape, size or color. Out to change that are companies like Germany-based Culinary Misfits, which offers culinary workshops and events, and California-based Imperfect Produce, a Bay Area home delivery service for misshapen fruits and veggies. Flourish Foods, another delivery service in San Francisco, teamed up with Imperfect Produce last year. “We need local, organic produce at a good price,” says Kim Burns, owner of Flourish Foods. “Since we cook our products, we don't care what they look like; as long as it’s fresh and local we can use it. Imperfect Produce was exactly what we were looking for.” Flourish works exclusively with organic ingredients (local whenever possible) for its family-friendly menu of handmade products, such as such as baby food purees, black bean-and-spinach brownie bites, and its popular Momma Stew packed with pre- and post-natal nutrition. Flourish incorporates Imperfect Produce fruits and vegetables—including pears, butternut squash and kale—in all its products. Burns encourages meeting professionals to include rejected produce in their F&B plan. “If you are chopping it, whipping it or baking with it, there is no reason not to use imperfect produce," she says. “Produce doesn't have to be pretty to be perfect!” In Berlin, Culinary Misfits has a comparable mission: Inspire consumers to value good food and prevent food waste. “The stars of this initiative are the imperfect rejects of our food culture: crooked cucumbers, gigantic zucchinis, three-legged carrots and forgotten varieties,” shares Tanja Krakowski, culinary designer and co-founder of Culinary Misfits. The company sources its produce from local organic farmers and employs a holistic approach that leaves no waste, says Krakowski. “The leaves of beet roots or turnips could be turned into healthy salads, spreads, pestos or soups,” she says. Similarly, three-pronged carrots could be transformed into “skewers with character,” or misshapen pears and parsnips added into a cake. The best way to get rejected produce? Ask. “There will always be farmers who have fruits and vegetables they can't sell to the regular markets,” says Krakowski. “Ask them what they have in large quantities. There is a good chance you can make a good deal.” She also suggests informing attendees where their food came from as a way to spread awareness about food waste.