In our beauty-obsessed society, we demonize anything less than perfect, including fruits and vegetables.
“Ugly” food is the misfits. It’s the misshapen, off colored, too small or too large, less than perfect fruits and vegetables. While still completely healthy, tasty and nutritious, “ugly” produce adds to the six billion tons of wasted fresh fruits and vegetables each year in the United States.
Growing up on a produce farm in Eastern North Carolina, I can witness that a fruit or vegetable does not change its taste or flavor just because its shape ranges outside the “perfect” shape. In fact, many heirloom varieties are shaped much differently than the hybrid varieties gracing grocery store shelves today. And quite often, the heirlooms taste better than modern varieties, because most modern hybrid breeding strives for shape, color and shelf-life, rather than taste.
On our produce farm, we separated the “ugly” fruits and vegetables from the pretty ones and sold them at a discounted rate. Not surprisingly, the “ugly” ones sold out first because they were cheaper and still tasted just as yummy as the “perfect” ones.
Today, at local farmer’s markets in Colorado, California and Washington state, many farmers are not grading the fruits and vegetables. People pick out what they want from piles of produce. At the end of the day, the farmers sell the leftovers at a reduced rate for eating, canning and preserving, or drop them off to a soup kitchen. It works well and these farmers are seeing less food waste as a result.
A serious push to reduce food waste is drawing attention to the wastefulness of tossing perfectly tasty and flavorful “ugly” food into compost heaps. It’s now trendy to serve a dish made with “ugly” fruits or vegetables at the community potluck. And while that may seem shallow, if that’s what it takes to stop tossing edible food into the landfills, it’s a good thing. We not only can feed more people in the world, but we can reduce the strain on natural resources.
It’s time to stop avoiding “ugly” fruits and vegetables. Instead, start embracing the “ugly” in your life. Proudly serve up awesome “ugly” food at your table. Be creative. Salads, casseroles, roasts, smoothies, juicing, kabobs, slaws or desserts are all ways to use up “ugly” fruits and vegetables.
To get you started, we’ve included 10 recipes from talented cooks for making “ugly” so beautiful, tasty and yummy, that you’ll forget they were ever “ugly.”
1 Rainbow Vegetable Kabobs
Use up plenty of “ugly” vegetables with the Rainbow Vegetable Kabobs recipe from Damn Delicious.
2 Classic Biscuit Topped Peach Cobbler
Less than perfect peaches make a tasty Classic Biscuit Topped Peach Cobbler recipe from Serious Eats.
3 Sauteed Julienned Summer Vegetables
Lots of “ugly” vegetables look great in Sauteed Julienned Summer Vegetables recipe from Skinny Taste.
4 Super Powered Orange Juice
Juice up lots of “ugly” fruits and vegetables in this Super Powered Orange Juice recipe from Minimalist Baker.
5 Veggie Lover’s Pasta Salad
Loads of vegetables find a home in the Veggie Lover’s Pasta Salad recipe from Gimme Some Oven.
6 Fruit Salad
A heavenly Fruit Salad recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie.
7 Zucchini Apple Hash
Combine “ugly” fruit and vegetables in this Zucchini Apple Hash recipe from Six Sister’s Stuff.
8 Chipotle Peach Salsa
Luscious spicy salsa transforms “ugly” fruit into beauty in the Chipotle Peach Salsa recipe from Budget Bytes.
9 Thai Chicken Burgers with Quick Pickled Carrots
Pickling is a great way to use “ugly” produce as in the Thai Chicken Burger with Quick Pickled Carrots recipe from Steamy Kitchen.
10 Pear Goat Cheese and Italian Sausage Pizza with Roasted Garlic and Fresh Basil
“Ugly” pears combine with savory in this Pear Goat Cheese and Italian Sausage Pizza with Roasted Garlic and Fresh Basil recipe from Cooking Classy.