Thinking about the Island of Misfit Toys might seem a bit early but those misfit toys come to mind when thinking about ugly produce. The fruits and vegetables have been judged to less than ideal but they still deserve a home.
The wrong shape, a minor bruise, not red enough: produce that grocery stores won't carry, won't put out on shelves to be bought by consumers.
Companies such as Imperfect Produce are trying to play Santa to give these misfits a home.
If you do most of your produce shopping at grocery stores, you might think "ugly" produce is ugly on the inside. You would have to be convinced that ugly can mean beautiful and that ugly is worth buying.
Being trapped in the corporate world means you likely have seen a fruit tray with absolutely gorgeous strawberries completely out of season. They look so good but when you taste them, they have no taste.
Less than ideal produce has the opposite problem: Cinderella before the ball. Beautiful on the inside but no way to show her outer beauty.
There is a level of criticism that groups such as Imperfect Produce make a profit off of less than perfect produce leaving fewer items to be donated to food banks.
While some of the criticism has legs, ideally there would be plenty of options to give rid of this level of food waste. And more people hired to pick that produce that can be saved.
Second Harvest in Canada collects surplus foods and donates that food to social agencies. The organization's Web site — foodrescue.ca — helps join businesses with food with Second Harvest to find a better home for that produce.
Saving food is half the battle. The other half is changing the perception of less than ideal fruits and vegetables.
We have no issue eating applesauce, even if some of those apples are less than ideal. We have no issue for babies eating strained carrots, even if some of those carrots are less than ideal.
We have previously mentioned about asking (politely) farmers at farmers markets if they have any less than ideal produce. Your spaghetti sauce won't know the difference if you used less than ideal looking tomatoes.
Less than perfect produce can be donated to food banks and food pantries, though you should check their local rules to see if they were take produce. Their clients, well everybody, should get guidance on how to make the best of their newfound beauty.
In the world of supermodels and lists of the most handsome men, convincing ourselves to make good use of less than ideal produce is a significant challenge. Lower costs would be a primary reason to buy less than perfect produce.
The telenovela Betty La Fea, later adapted to the U.S. TV show Ugly Betty, showed us that ugly was often more beautiful than pretty was. We could have a TV show called Ugly Produce with braces on peaches. The Food Network and/or Cooking Channel could run promos in between shows on advantages to using ugly produce. Give ugly produce a PBS show. Have people brag about how their excellent dish was made with the ugliest produce in similar ways to people who brag about thrift purchases on a dress or coat. What if the Great British Bake Off adopted Great Ugly Produce Baking?
The idea of the Island of Misfit Toys was that yes, the toys were not ideal but a water pistol that shoots grape jelly, a cowboy riding an ostrich, a Charlie in the box, and a spotted elephant had some value. The less than ideal produce has some value. Maybe that produce, like the toys, are only misfits in perception, not reality.
photos credit: me; FoodRescue.ca