Ugly Fruits And Veggies: What's Taste Got To Do With It?

Mind you, this story is not about ugli fruit, the Jamaican-grown sweet tangelo. It was never in danger of being thrown away because it was ugly; it was expected to be ugly... irregularly-shaped and surface scarred.

This is about your average potatoes, carrots, cucumbers and 30 or so other fruits and vegetables that just happen, by slight of nature, to grow ugly instead of true to some idealized form. Bent, gnarly carrots, potatoes with sprouts, discolored spots on cucumbers... are considered, for lack of a better word, ugly in the European Union and, until now, could not be sold.

Here is one regulation quoted from an EU regulation of June 1988 by BBC News Magazine:

Class I cucumbers must "be reasonably well shaped and practically straight (maximum height of the arc: 10 mm per 10 cm of the length of cucumber)". Class II "slightly crooked cucumbers may have a maximum height of the arc of 20 mm per 10 cm of length of the cucumber."
And further,

Commission Regulation (EC) No 730/1999 of 7 April 1999 says they [carrots] must be "not forked, free from secondary roots". Commission Regulation (EC) No 85/2004 of 15 January 2004, any apple under 50mm in diameter or 70g in weight cannot be sold.

Thirty-six varieties of ugly fruits and vegetables were turned away from fresh produce packaging plants or from markets in EU countries and, because it was too expensive to transport them to other production sites, tons were thrown away.

Poor ugly veggies and ugly fruits. All that tasty, fresh, nutritious food just allowed to decay in huge dumps. Think about the poor people and animals who could have fed on these ugly veggies and fruits these many years.

Some of the tastiest tomatoes are ugly!

Finally, the European Union is lifting the ban on most of the uglies, 26 of them: Apricots, artichokes, asparagus, aubergines, avocadoes, beans, brussels sprouts, cauliflowers, cherries, courgettes, cucumbers, cultivated mushrooms, garlic, hazelnuts in shell, headed cabbage, leeks, melons, onions, peas, plums, ribbed celery, spinach, walnuts in shell, watermelons, witloof chicory.

But alas, there are still 10 varieties whose uglies may still not be sold: Apples, citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, lettuces and endives, peaches and nectarines, pears, strawberries, sweet peppers, table grapes, tomatoes.

Personally, I want to thank the members of the European Free The Ugly Fruit (EFTUF) campaign, for their hard fought efforts against the EU bans, but I want to remind them that there are still more ugly fruits left to feed the hungry. Maybe the EFTUF should work on that next.

sources: BBC News Magazine, BBC News photo credits: Carrots:BBC News Magazine, Tomato: Yumsugar.

Nov 12, 2008
by Jill Harness
Jill Harness's picture

Ugly tomatoes are yummy

Those are totally the best ones some times!

Nov 12, 2008
by Beth Graddon-Hodgson
Beth Graddon-Hodgson's picture

 I have to admit I never

 I have to admit I never really thought about why grocery store products usually look so appealing.

In fact, in the store I shop they recently cut open and shrink wrapped a hard shell fruit (something like a dragon fruit..but I'm not sure what) to show that the inside only LOOKED mouldy/rotten because people were returning them thinking they were bad. We're just not so used to seeing ugly produce unless it comes from our gardens...but why not, it's all the same! 


Beth Hodgson
Innovative Business Writer