Imperfect produce: it’s time we leaned into this responsible trend. Time we started asking for and buying imperfect veggies and fruits. Our collection of recipes—each one a feast to be enjoyed—is perfect for imperfects.
From farm fields and greenhouses to grocery stores and our tables, we’ve been conditioned to look for and buy “the best.” Grocery stores and markets have long been culling ugly produce. Sadly, food waste is a reality in our market. We only see the perfects. The imperfects are often culled and sent to food waste buckets or left in heaps for composting.
But do you know there’s a growing market for ugly produce being offered at reduced rates? We’re finally taking our cue from Europe. Head over to their markets and you’ll see they’ve been ahead of this curve for quite some time, selling imperfects at reduced prices. And the business is growing. Apparently, inglorious fruits and veggies are the darling of their food markets.
Just as edible as the pretty hand-picked products, using imperfect produce is a responsible way to reduce food waste. After all, so what if it’s a little soft? Or lacks the perfect shape? Or has a spot? Or has scarred flesh? There’s still goodness to be had. And it’s generally easier on the wallet.
Some of our neighbours to the south are also beginning to capitalize on this necessity. Startup companies on both coastlines are restoring imperfects in California and New York—two densely populated areas where the damaged and imperfects are being lured. Some of these shadow companies are bypassing grocery stores altogether, delivering ugly produce right to customers’ doorsteps.
But preventing food waste involves more than culling the imperfects. At home, there’s also the question of what to do when your produce has gone a little soft or misshapen. Some might argue its nutritional value has depleted. Toss it, say others. And still others, feeling their conscience, might gently move the substandard item to the rear of the refrigerator, promising to use it up … then discarding it eventually as well.
But hold on. There are many ways your produce can be salvaged and used in something tasty. Check out our handy restoration guide with its creative suggestions. If your bell pepper has sagged and isn’t the desired round and firm product that’s been flawlessly harvested, it’s still perfectly good. With a bit of trimming, it will add good value not only to your recipe, but also to your budget.
It’s time we leaned into this responsible trend. Time we started asking for and buying imperfect veggies and fruits. Our collection of recipes is perfect for imperfects. And each one is a feast to be enjoyed
Breakfast Hash with Apples and Sunchokes
Jewel Yam Bisque with Toasted Nut Garnish
Barley and Wilted Lettuce Stir-Fry with Creamy Avocado Tahini
Savoury French Lentils with Roasted Tomatoes and Confetti Vegetables
Sablefish Fillets with Grape and Caper Salsa
Stuffed Squash Laced with Smoky Rich Tomato Sauce
Rosy Beetroot Hummus
10 imperfectly creative tips
It’s reported that Canadians waste $31 billion worth of food a year. This isn’t only from homes, but includes manufacturers, grocery stores, and restaurants. With a population of just over 35 million, that’s a tremendous amount of food waste per person in a world where many are hungry. There are numerous websites offering helpful tips and showing how to reuse food scraps rather than tossing or composting. We’ve listed a few ideas to inspire you.
1. Many recipes call for florets, such as from broccoli and cauliflower. Don’t toss their stems; use a veggie peeler and remove tough outer skins. Grate stems and add to salads or stir-fries.
2. Don’t worry if your squash or root veggies have scars or marks. Before cooking, simply cut out weak or dark spots and trim gnarly ends. There’ll still be plenty of goodness left.
3. Buy seconds and bags of flawed produce at your local markets. Wash and cut up, discarding any marked and damaged bits. Restore in ice water, drain, and store in plastic tubs in your refrigerator. These might be perfect for snacking along with our Rosy Beetroot Hummus, or added to our Barley and Wilted Lettuce Stir-Fry, or tossed with our Savoury French Lentils.
4. Want your celery to live beyond wonky? Wrap stalks tightly in foil and they’ll stay crisp for weeks.
5. Keep a bucket for veggie scraps in your freezer. Once it’s full, add to a stock pot with water. Simmer for a couple of hours and strain. This makes a delicious veggie broth.
6. Citrus peels are terrific for cleaning your garburator and making it smell fresh. Just toss the peels into your drain and grind.
7. Not all root veggies need to be peeled before cooking. If making a puréed soup or sauce, simply scrub, cook, and purée as we did with our Jewel Yam Bisque. There’s plenty of goodness in the outer peel that’s worth eating.
8. Fruits like grapes no longer crisp? Use in a recipe such as our Sablefish Fillets with Grape and Caper Salsa. Alternatively, purée fruits in blender and store in small sandwich baggies in your freezer. Perfect for popping into smoothies.
9. Make your produce last longer with proper storage. Check out the following websites for handy tips:
- Food Construed—foodconstrued.com (search for “fruit and vegetable storage chart”)
- Kitchn—thekitchn.com (search for “storing fruits and vegetables”)
10. If you have a green thumb, you may be able to regrow some of your used veggies. Don’t throw out the root ends from romaine, onions, celery, and many other roots. You can pop them into water or moist soil. Check online for tips and tricks for planting your leftovers—and reap a crop at home.
There are many more creative suggestions online. Let’s all do our part and lean into reducing food waste.