Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

Why we shouldn't turnip our noses over 'wonky' vegetables

One of the oddest stories to hit the business headlines over the last few days is the revelation consumers don't want to buy "wonky" vegetables.

Tesco told a House of Lords inquiry that its customers shunned less-than-perfect looking spuds, tomatoes and carrots in favour their more asthetically pleasing siblings.

That means the supermarket giant and others make a beeline for the "lookers" when it comes to buying from growers, leaving the rest with little or no market value and nowhere to go but waste. As an amateur grower of vegetables, I can confirm to the picky consumer that in nearly all cases asthetics and taste don't go hand in hand.

I have grown potatoes which are small and gnarly, parsnips which look to have had a hard paper round and tomatoes which are more green than red.

All, have been delicious (apart from some errant turnips in last year's crop) and much better than their perfect cousins.

Our continental cousins realise this already, and you only have to take a trip to market in France or Spain to realise the wonky vegetables are prized.

Tesco itself said it can find a market for the so-called class 2 produce in Europe but rather than let this process continue we, as consumers, need to adopt a different attitude and stop being so shallow.

No doubt it will take a nationwide campaign by celebrity chefs to do it – like Hugh Fearnley Wittingstall's bid to get us eating less well-known varieties of fish – but we need to be more open in our buying habits.

That way we'll cut down on waste, boost the fortunes of local producers and have a sprinkle of variety in our meals.