Zany zucchinis, awkward avocados, crazy carrots, peculiar pears...Live for Less talks to Brisbane locals about imperfect produce and checks out the best places to shop and save money.
Most Australians would be unaware that we throw away tonnes and tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables every year.
The ABC’s War on Waste recently reported that in Queensland alone banana growers are forced to discard more than 30 million of the 80 million bananas grown each year. This is because those bananas do not meet the supermarkets’ strict guidelines on the shape, size and colour.
Looking Australia-wide, the retailer Harris Farm estimates that 25% of national vegetable production in Australia is ploughed back into the earth. How have we allowed this to happen? This less-than-perfect looking produce tastes the same. Isn’t that what really counts?
What Brisbane shoppers think
Live for Less interviewed some of the local community about ugly fruit and veg.
The first question we asked was around their willingness to buy fruit and veg that was odd in shape and size as long as the taste was good. The answer was uniformly “if it’s fresh then yes!” As long as the skin blemishes did not indicate obvious damage, the size and shape were of no concern. The only exception was a comment from one mother:
“I don’t mind but the children do, they have only ever in their lifetime seen perfect fruit. They will not eat bananas if the skin is not pristine. I currently have 4 bananas which have blighted skin but will be good inside and they will not touch them.”
This could indicate that we need to introduce this concept early so our children simply grow up familiar with fruit and veg that is isn’t picture perfect on supermarket shelves.
Other responses pointed out that there is no correlation between taste and appearance.
“You can get amazing looking strawberries that taste great and amazing looking strawberries that taste terrible.”
Sometimes it’s those small odd-shaped strawberries that taste divine. You can actually pick your own strawberries on the Sunshine Coast next time you’re travelling that way. Or watch this video from Claire Bickle on how to grow your own.
One family said they actively seek out the odd carrots not only because they are cheaper but because their son is on a mission to find the weirdest shape carrot.
As to exactly who is driving this demand for perfect fruit and veg, our respondents felt that it’s both the supermarket and the consumer. A supermarket living up to its slogan of providing ‘fresh food’ doesn’t gel with wonky fruit and veg, but it’s also people being conditioned to expect it when they shop. They are looking for good food and appearance is deceptive. We are not encouraged to touch or smell, so we just go on the visual appear of the fruit and vegetables.
Finding the bargains
Live for Less went across Brisbane looking at which major retailers are selling odd fruit and veg and found some good discounts. For example, mandarins in the ‘odds’ range worked out on average to be 28 cents versus 48 cents per 100 grams. That’s 70% more expensive for the supposedly perfect mandarin.
At Woolworths, you’ll find a fun range of Crazy Carrots, Kooky Capsicums, Misshaped Mandarins and Awkward Avocados. We hope there comes a time when we see across all our shelves, not just in a special section. While Woolworths is doing a good job with this range, we also hope to see them out of their plastic bags and for sale by the kilo.
Coles was also mystery shopped but no evidence was found in Brisbane of any odd fruit and veg for sale. Send us a comment at firstname.lastname@example.org if you see any near you. Aldi didn’t have a range either, but our Aldi stores already seem to carry some of the more unusual shaped fruit and veg and a few blemishes here and there.
Looking beyond the major chains to smaller retailers and markets, have a read of Michelle Mascher’s Live for Less guide on where else to find ugly fruit and veg in Brisbane including Charlies Fruit Market, FoodConnect and various farmers markets.