Up to 40% of fresh produce harvested never gets to leave the farm because they are ‘too ugly’ to sell. This problem or more commonly known as food loss, constitutes to the amount of food wasted in Australia and is costing our economy $20B a year. One a larger scale, about 1B tonnes of food produced that is still good for human consumption is wasted each year globally, costing the global economy approximately US$940B a year!
It is projected that the world will have additional 2 billion plus people by 2050 and to meet the additional demand, crop production needs to increase between 60% to 100%.
Food waste currently occurs at every point along the supply and consumption chain; primary production, processing and manufacturing, food distribution, retail, hospitality and household.
The food and grocery industry have been made to believe that all fresh produce used for businesses or sold to consumers have to be perfect in terms of size, shape and colour. The biggest misconception about ugly produce is that they are almost towards the end of their shelf live, hence they are not fit for consumption and do not meet the industry’s expectations of what fresh produce are meant to be. No they are not. Too often, we as consumers and food operators forget that these aesthetically ugly fruits and vegetables were grown and harvested with the same amount of love, sweat and tender care as their perfect counterparts. So why are we continuously rejecting these fruits and vegetables and piling up on our landfill when they are over 795 million people in the world suffering from food insecurity? Did you also know that up to 16.5M tonnes of carbon dioxide is released from food waste each year?
In conjunction with Australia’s National Food Waste Strategy to halve waste by 2030, we have listed the following innovative solutions that you can implement to repurpose ugly produce today. Sometimes, all it takes is for us to step out of our comfort zone, be creative and think outside of the box. "It's about being less concerned with the original form of something and thinking of ways we can take it and introduce other rich flavours to it," says Ashley Christensen, a James Beard award-winning chef and cookbook author.
Review your existing menu
Determine if you can swap the perfect produce to ugly produce and what new menu can you or your chef create using these imperfect produce? By doing so, you can reduce your fresh produce costs by up to 50% and help our local growers to at least cover their expenses for that harvest.
Use blemished and odd-looking produce to make paste, sauces, jam, pickles, ice cream, soup, bread and the list goes on
You will be amazed at the taste of your creation as imperfect produce is equally nutritious and tasty, if not better than their perfect counterparts.
Alternate your menus to incorporate produce that are in season
We are constantly working with our growers to promote surplus produce to ensure that they do not end up in the landfill. By opting to use seasonal or what is known as surplus produce, you can continue using perfectly looking produce for your menu items that requires food presentation at a significant cost reduction.
Use the whole plant
Did you know that many parts of a fruit or vegetables that are discarded are in perfectly good condition? Instead of tossing them out, try to incorporate them in your cocktails, desserts, smoothies, yogurt or vegetable stocks.
Pesto was traditionally made up of basil leaves and fresh herbs but some creative Chefs are incorporating carrot tops, broccoli leaves and fennel fronds into making this popular sauce.
Chop it up into delicious tartare
Gerry Ludwig, Chef at Gordon Food Service states that Chefs are cubing, chopping and mincing ugly produce like capsicums, eggplant, tomatoes and presenting them much like a beef or lamb tartare.
Smoking, barbequing, grilling or pickling
What about trying different cooking techniques using ugly produce and vegetable scraps to create your signature dish? One popular chef in Denver, Paul Reily of Beast + Bottle curated an appetiser board comprising of smoked and pickled produce and substituting meat and cheese with these vegetables and garlic confit.
You can consider using roasted blemished pumpkins, sliced beets, grilled eggplants, zucchini noodles, carrot swirls, bruised tomatoes or shaved artichokes as a toast toppings, great option as an appetiser.
What about transforming something that may look ugly aesthetically into colourful yet tasty hummus dips? Check out companies like ChicP that is doing an amazing job on eliminating waste.
Food waste is a serious global epidemic that needs to be put to a stop. It is more important now than ever to start thinking about how you source, cook and eat your food.