Vegetables: Rebranded

How many times have you put back an apple or a cucumber because it wasn’t perfect? Probably never, because most consumers never see the misshapen fruit and vegetables unless they shop at a farmer’s market or grow it themselves. It’s not that this produce tastes any different; it’s just not as aesthetically pleasing.

We’ve been taught as consumers that carrots are orange and shaped like a long triangle (or small two inch nubs in snack-sized pages of 20) and apples are perfectly symmetrical. If you’ve ever grown carrots in your garden, you know that it’s rare for carrots to turn out symmetrical and perfect. Instead they grow long and gangly like a witch’s gnarled fingers from your favorite fairy tale. And apples aren’t perfect either.

Give imperfect produce a chance. Poster by photographer Patrice de Villiers.

Give imperfect produce a chance. Poster by photographer Patrice de Villiers.

That’s why I was super stoked to see this article in Fast Company online this morning about the French grocer, Intermarche, commissioning posters of imperfect fruit and vegetables for its campaign to reduce food waste. A ridiculous amount of food is wasted every year, and while some of the blame lays at the feet of consumers (We’ve all purchased more produce than we could eat and had to throw it away when it went bad), much of the blame is on merchants and others who toss fruits and vegetables deemed not attractive enough to sell. We’ve become so conditioned to expect perfection from our produce that they don’t think that we’ll purchase a wonky carrot.

Maybe they’re right; I’m sure there are folks who’d say, “Ewww, I won’t let that funky-looking carrot or lopsided apple anywhere near me” as they then proceed to huck five packages of Hot Pockets in their shopping cart. And that’s okay. You’ll always have people who are driven by appearance.

However, check out these fun posters created by photographer Patrice de Villiers, as well as his other work at the link (warning: don’t view on an empty stomach).

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New Beginnings

While the rest of the country is digging itself out of snow, us coastal Californians can turn our attention to the spring growing season. I love gardening. Growing up, I’d help my mother in our gardens, and loved planting starter plants in the ground. I’d work alongside my mom, pouring water from the watering can into the hole that she had made in the dirt. After she placed the plant in the ground, I’d push the dirt back in and pat the dirt around the base as if to tuck the plant into bed. When I moved out on my own, I began to garden in containers on my patio since I didn’t have a yard. I grew basil, cilantro, pole beans, tomatoes and sunflowers. garden 2

My grandfather was an avid gardener as well. He tended a garden in a neighbor’s yard, growing tons of vegetables. Now whenever I garden, I think of him.

I was thinking of him this weekend when I planted my starter seeds. The benefit of living in a fairly mild climate is that I get to start my seeds now. We’re also fortunate to rent a house with a small greenhouse in back. My lemon and nectarine trees have been living there since we moved up here last fall. Both trees have done well and are even beginning to bud.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds is my go-to seed company. They have a wide selection of seeds, they’re an employee-owned company and they’re based out of Maine so I feel like I’m buying from my peeps. This year, I’m growing: bok choi, spring onions, 3 kinds of cucumbers including lemon cucumbers which I’m super stoked to try, black prince tomatoes, purple haze carrots, d’avignon radishes, pole beans, basil and zucchini. Once I have another egg carton available, I plan to plant okra and maybe cantaloupe.

It’s no secret that produce in the store is pricey, and with California in the midst of a serious drought (with word that the Central Valley—where most of the country’s produce is grown—won’t be receiving much water from the state this year), it’ll be important to grow your own produce to save money and have yummy nutritious food on hand. garden 1

But for now I sit and wait to see those little green sprouts break through the surface of the soil.