Be honest, how often have you chosen misshapen fruit or veg over those that look perfect? It’s true, supermarkets don’t often give us the option, but it’s time to stop being superficial and create a demand for wonky veg.
It’s not often that I agree with stories in The Sun, but their ‘Wonky Veg pledge’ caught my eye this week.
It says that retailers dump millions of tonnes of misshapen fruit and veg each year – purely because people won’t buy it.
Only last week Kelly Fenn started a Conversation about how we Brits are reportedly throwing away 10% of the food we buy. Add that to this mountain of perfectly fine, but wonky, food that doesn’t even make it to the shop shelves and it paints quite a depressing picture of UK waste.
Creative ways to sell ugly fruit
Back in 2009, an EU ban on fresh produce that didn’t match standard shapes and sizes, including curly cucumbers and knobbly carrots, was lifted. Up to that point an estimated 20 to 40% of UK fruit and vegetables was rejected even before it reached the shops, according to food campaigner Tristram Stuart, author of Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal.
So now that the ban has been lifted, why aren’t we seeing more ‘wonky veg’ on shop shelves? Well, some supermarkets have come up with creative ways to shift misshapen stock.
Waitrose has to be applauded for selling a range of imperfect fruit for baking and jam-making, including strawberries, tomatoes and plums. And it’s now announced a new range of packs of seven ‘weather-blemished apples’ for £1.99, which works out at just under 29p each.
Other schemes are also becoming increasing popular, like farmers markets and Food Cycle, which uses supermarkets’ unwanted food in its community cafes that sell healthy, low-cost lunches. But these only account for a small proportion of what’s being wasted.
A matter of supply and demand
To me, this is a problem that we all need to help to solve. Yes, supermarkets have a responsibility to stock fruit and veg that doesn’t look perfect. But equally, we as consumers should show that we’re willing to buy it and help create a market for it.
So here’s my challenge to you – next time you see some bumpy beans or crooked cucumbers, give them a go. See if they taste any different to straight ones, and if not, keep buying them.
Will you take my wonky challenge? Or do you already take pity on the less-than-pretty supermarket stock? Do you have any other creative solutions for making misshapen fruit and veg a more attractive prospect for shoppers?