The other day, I popped downstairs to get a snack while working. I settled on a couple of passionfruit from the fruit bowl, picked from the vine that grows on the garden fence. As I was choosing two, I noticed that one was a bit blemished and, almost subconsciously, ignored it. A moment later, realising that I wanted more than two, I picked it up and cut it open.
Inside, it still had that gorgeous, tangy, tropical taste that I’ve begun to associate with afternoons writing away in my study. I could still stack the skins in a little tower and it still left my mouth watering for more. And yet, accidentally, I’d bought into the message of “blemish=bad” and neglected this humble, juicy, cricket-ball sized fruit.
Back upstairs writing, I thought back to some lemon & poppyseed muffins I made on the weekend with lemons from a friend’s garden, and all the banana breads and carrot cakes I’ve made over the years. One of the lemons I used in the muffins is pictured above- it’s seriously weird looking. It’s a strange, pointed shape, mutated and bizarre, but the muffins tasted amazing. Meanwhile the bananas or carrots I use in baking are always ones that, otherwise, are only really good for composting, the bananas the ones that have gone so brown they’re almost black, and the carrots so flexible I can almost tie them in a knot- and yet even during that one time when I forgot to put eggs in, they’ve always been delicious (or at very least edible).
Of all waste, food waste is probably the one I hate the most. It’s why I was so intrigued by my own instinctive behaviour, but also why I was horrified to find out that, in the UK, it’s estimated that 2-40% of produce gets wasted before even leaving the farm. Apparently, this is because “consumers” like myself are too picky to eat it.
Now admittedly, many supermarkets are taking steps towards reducing this figure. You can buy so-called “ugly fruit” in concession lines or it’s turned into salads or smoothies, which begs the question: why?! Why aren’t funny-looking fruit and veg part of mainstream lines? Why are we creating whole new ranges out of produce that’s still perfectly good for its original purpose?! Looking at the picture of that lemon now, I remember picking it from our friend’s tree and wanting to use it because of its unusual shape- not discard it.
So, what can consumers do about it, without having to resort to pricey farmers markets? The answer isn’t easy. It lies partly with companies like Oddbox, who deliver boxes of wonky-veg across London, but, mainly, with consumers challenging the status-quo. Write to your supermarket, or even your MP, chat to your friends about it, recommend them recipes that are perfect for misshapen fruit and veg. Start a conversation that demands fruit in all shapes and sizes and an appreciation of what fresh produce should really be all about.
And when you pick up a fruit that looks a bit blemished or odd-looking, eat it. You won’t regret it.