Long live ugly fruit and veg!

Long live ugly fruit and veg!

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So that the fruit and vegetables we consume look the same, they are calibrated and standardised, to the detriment of their flavour and nutritional qualities. As our purchasing behaviour is hugely influenced by visual signals, we really need to re-examine it and grow accustomed once more to eating what nature provides us. Due to their wonky shapes, ugly fruit and vegetables appear odd, and yet they have so much more going for them than simply reducing food waste. This means we need some (re)education so that our generations can reconnect with nature and its idiosyncrasies and change their perceptions about eating plant-based foods.

An increasing number of start-ups have sprung up because of a desire to process ugly fruit and vegetables to produce juices, soups and jams based on “second choice” ingredients. I believe that this exciting work should be complemented by ways of giving information to consumers to explain to them where uncalibrated fruit and vegetables come from, how they are produced and also about their flavour and nutritional properties.

In the 20th century, to make trade relations for distance selling easier and to avoid misrepresentation of goods, standards were introduced to regulate the marketing of fruit and vegetables. With these rules it was possible to create a common language, but also to regulate the market during periods of overproduction.

There are two types of standards:

  • General standards , mainly concerned with health and food attributes, with minimum quality and ripeness specifications.
  • Specific standards , in addition to the general standard with requirements based on the produce’s aesthetic appearance (shape, colour, size, etc.).

In addition to these specific European standards, many distributors also add further quality standards. These are there to increase the shelf life of the produce they stock and are mainly concerned with the food’s appearance. Rather than focussing on the quality of flavour of the fruit and vegetables, mass production results in a focus on the produce’s outer appearance.

And if major industrial producers comply with these artificial standards – unlike small producers who are unable or unwilling to do so – there are harmful ramifications. Fruit and vegetables which have come from afar are harvested before they have ripened, and so end up on our display stands still hard and unripe. To ensure product compliance, use of crop protection products is often intensive and, of course, any rejected produce goes to waste! Although these regulations have been bound up with the marketplace for a long time, times are changing and so these standards need to evolve with them.

Here are three things you can do that will help you consume more responsibly:

  1. Avoid waste created by having high visual expectations. Even if consumption patterns are changing in favour of short distribution channels, it’s still important not to penalise fresh local produce by following rules and behaviours which persist from long distribution channels, because this would force our producers to discard a sizeable proportion of what they grow.
  1. Change your consumption habits and start buying ugly fruit and vegetables again and awareness needs to be raised among consumers, because it’s absolutely essential that we tackle food waste.
  2. Take an interest in the flavour and nutritional qualities of “ugly” produce. Distributors should focus their marketing far more on such produce and advise local consumers to try it.

As consumers, we too have a role to play! So let’s consume in a responsible way by buying “naturally imperfect” produce.


MY RECIPE OF THE MONTH

This is the season for local apples, it’s apples that we simply pick up and eat directly. High in fibre, just how sweet an apple tastes will depend on the variety. Apples are a perfect snack for when we feel peckish, we can cook them to produce an accompaniment, and they also take pride of place in patisserie: what could be more delicious than an apple tart, apple turnover or apple doughnut?

SALTED CARAMEL APPLE TART  

 

MY NUTRITIONAL ADVICE

SQUASHES

Winter squashes contain more calories than summer ones because they have a higher carbohydrate content. They are indeed an excellent source of potassium, vitamins A and C, and also provide copper, folic acid and pantothenic acid.

The large squash family brings sunshine to our tables. As squashes also come in a wide range of different shapes, colours and flavours, they can be used to make mouth-watering recipes, both sweet and savoury.

Uncooked, squashes can be grated or cut into very thin strips to create original and unusual starters. They team up splendidly with fresh herbs and fromage frais, as well as lemon and fruit.

Cooked, they’re delicious in soups, especially with carrots and ginger, but they also work well in risottos, stews and curries. They are perfect mashed or cooked with a cheese topping – you can add your own personal touch with maple syrup, rosemary, nuts, garlic and so on.

Certain slightly sweet-tasting squashes such as pumpkin, red kuri and butternut squash can also be used to create delicious desserts (pies, cakes and muffins).

 

MY WILD PICKINGS:

HERB BENNET

Gather roots which have grown on dry, sandy and well exposed soil. In our regions, it is during May when the rootlets – tiny roots – release their pleasant clove aroma. Pick this plant in areas where it grows abundantly, so that there will be plenty left.

In itself this plant is a pharmacy: with tonic and astringent properties it helps to heal wounds. Used in the past to treat haemorrhoids and diarrhoea, as an infusion it also works well for rheumatism and high temperatures. Nowadays, it is used mostly to stimulate sluggish digestion, and just like cloves, to help with dental problems.

TRAVEL TO ASIA WITHOUT LEAVING YOUR KITCHEN :


CHAI TEA WITH HERB BENNET AND CHOCOLATE  

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