/ Food & Drink, Shopping

My ‘wonky’ challenge – buy more misshapen fruit ‘n’ veg

A display wonky carrots

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?


If we are throwing it away why not package it up and sell it cheep. I wold buy it , I grow a little of my veg and have yet to produce any root veg that looks the same as the picture perfect models in the supermarkets , but they taste better.

No-one worries about misshapen fruit and vegetables if they grow their own and I doubt that there was a problem before self-service was introduced. It is human nature to avoid imperfect items in supermarkets, so the best solution is separate them and sell them at a lower price. Creative marketing is probably the best way to encourage people to buy imperfect items, and definitely better than labelling them as Class II.

I’m not quite up to Hannah’s challenge because imperfect fruit and veg will probably have been examined and rejected hundreds of times in a supermarket, so is likely to be less fresh than the rest.

rose hammett says:
20 November 2011

i don’t have a problem with mishapen produce – i have always been appalled by the amount of food supermarkets/shops throw away because it is not ‘perfect’ bring it on – let common sense prevail

Yes of course I would,who would’nt! There are hungry people out there,we waste too much!!

My local greengrocer sells bent or curly cues of which there is not much of a demand…
they then put unsold ones in a bag for flogging off cheap and if still unsold, simply give
them away free….quite easy to reconstitute tired-looking cues or any other(root) veg,
removing any damaged part of course….grated white radishes or daikon, turnips and
carrots irrespective of shape can be turned into very delicious savoury cakes of the
steamed version (idiot-proof recipes in You Tube will show you how).

I pickle chillies and daikon when in cheap and plentiful supply….far superior and
cheaper to the ones sold ready-made in supermarkets that’s quite frankly
a disappointment.

Pickled gherkins and asparagus (when cheap like from Peru) are quite nice that
I’ve yet to try out.

Additionally, misshapen fruit and veg can be juiced for an invigorating healthy
drink….. full of vitamins and minerals, as Keith Floyd would say.

I don’t find less-than-pretty fruit and veg being sold in supermarkets including
Waitrose and Lidl and neither do the oriental ones sell them…. rather than
throwing away or not stocking them, they should see to selling them at a CHEAPER
price like in the case of dented cans of food….but I think they are simply not
bothered to take steps as to stocking such fruit and veg as there is presumably
no perceived demand.

The more you buy fruit and veg at full price, the greater the profit margin of
course and no social conscience or environmental concerns is taken into account
in whatever decision they make which is not always consumer-friendly
or in consumers’ better interests.

Sophie Gilbert says:
20 November 2011

I get a crate of organic veg delivered to my doorstep every week and you should see the look of the veg sometimes! No matter, it is always so tasty. Nothing like picture perfect, bland supermarket stuff. Yes, I’ll take up the challenge when I need to top up my veg. Let’s try and put an end to this awful waste.

Roger says:
20 November 2011

I’d be happy to buy mishapen fruit & veg, or small eggs. But I expect it to be significantly cheaper than the perfect stuff. I’ve never seen it offered cheap, and I think that’s the real problem.

It it were to be sold cheaper, I would happily turn those misshapen vegetables into a tasty meal with my pressure cooker! 🙂

Jacqueline Pye says:
21 November 2011

Agree with the others. We grow (sometimes) wonky veg and marked fruit, always eat it and would certainly buy it. Wouldn’t need to be much cheaper.

Realist says:
21 November 2011

Why call it Wonky, just because it does not conform to some silly persons idea of ideal? Great tasting veg in Europe’s smaller (and sometimes supermarket) shops sells well and tastes just as good and often better! [a plant under stress often packs more into it’s fruit etc].

Like other contributors I think that if supermarkets think it less than ideal, sell it at reduced price and get rid of what would otherwise be a waste.

Current situation is madness. Of course I would buy it!

Education might be the answer. Get the kids to put down their phones and iPods for a moment and help them understand about the amount of food that is wasted. As a child I found carrots with two ‘legs’ and odd shaped potatoes fascinating. More difficult to peel, but there’s no need to peel a lot of veg if it is fresh. That’s something else that is best learned at an early age.

FoodCycle says:
21 November 2011

Thanks for mentioning FoodCycle!

We’re all for wonky veg – it often tastes better – and we should prioritise human consumption for everything we grow. Check out last Friday’s Feeding the 5000 event to see how we can make a difference – http://edition.cnn.com/2011/11/18/world/europe/food-waste-london/index.html

If you’d like to know more about FoodCycle check us out here – http://foodcycle.org.uk/ if you can help.

Up to two-fifths of a crop of fruit or vegetables can be wasted because it is “ugly”, a new report on food waste has shown: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/sep/19/fruit-vegetables-wasted-ugly-report Have you taken up ugly fruit n veg?