Embracing Ugly Veggies

Digging around in the garden, today, I had to run into the house to look up a stunning fact. Here it is: Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year, approximately 1.3 billion tons, is wasted. But here’s the hitch — The Food and Agricultural Association claims:

  • Fruits and vegetables, plus roots and tubers have the highest wastage rates of any food.

Fruits and veggies top out the list, not grains, dairy, meat and legumes. It’s the perishables that contribute to (in this country) the over 33 million tons of food each year that ends up in the landfill.

I posit that much of it is ugly veggies, like ours.

This time of year, the veggies in our garden are downright repulsive.

That's Broccoli Folks! © Liesl Clark

That’s Broccoli Folks! © Liesl Clark

The ceaseless rain and a recent freeze, has waterlogged the cauliflower.

Browned Cauli Still Tastes Great © Liesl Clark

Browned Cauli Still Tastes Great © Liesl Clark

Thanks to a few thousand slugs that share the land with us, the slender kale has holes in it.

Holy Kale © Liesl Clark

Holy Kale © Liesl Clark

The finger potatoes and sun chokes cling to the sodden earth like black clods of nutritious grit.

It's What's For Dinner © Liesl Clark

It’s What’s For Dinner © Liesl Clark

Never fear, friends, just lower your standards, and don’t let your ugly veggies get you down. They’re still food. Hideously delicious food.

Roasted Sun Chokes © Liesl Clark

Roasted Sun Chokes © Liesl Clark


Gone are the days of showing off our succulent crops in beautiful baskets on long lost sunny afternoons. No, tonight’s dinner was wrestled free from the muck and slime of a New Year’s dark garden of primal growth that only the diehard will eat. We eat the foul-looking foodstuffs because snubbing our nose at them would contribute to the EPA’s wasted food bottom line. No, we’ll whip up dishes from weird days where clouds and wet shadows prevail over the  sheepish sunlight.

We triumph, quietly, when the kids eat the ugly veggies.

Pizza with Kale and Red Pepper Flakes © Liesl Clark

Pizza with Kale and Red Pepper Flakes © Liesl Clark

So, why be ashamed of the slug holes and dark spots on your rotting heads of cauliflower or snail-slimed leaves of kale when you hear this confession and bear witness to our homely ingredients? Embrace your ugly veggies. They’re food after all.

Washing the Grit From Sun Chokes © Liesl Clark

Washing the Grit From Sun Chokes © Liesl Clark

No one’s watching. No one’s comparing their Instagram-perfect patches of deep solstice greens with yours.  Bon appetit!  Go ahead, share your vile veggies with the fates that befall all winter gardens. Welcome them into your kitchen, unsightly as they are.

Snail on Kale © Liesl Clark

Snail on Kale © Liesl Clark

We eat our ugly veggies with pride. How about you?

21 thoughts on “Embracing Ugly Veggies

    • Thank you so much, Isa! Yes, these are images I shot yesterday in our soggy garden, and what we had for dinner. It’s not so picture-perfect, but I guess that’s the point! I know so many folks who wouldn’t dream of eating our bruised, hole-y, and sad-looking produce. But when it gets cooked up, no one’s the wiser.
      — Liesl


        • I wonder if we started asking for the “ugly” food at farmers markets, for the seconds, if they would leave it out longer? “I want to make vegetable broth, can you give me your ugly veggies?” They’d laugh, but maybe they’d get it and start putting out their not-so-pretty produce at a reduced cost, in a bin, for soup and freezing. I might try it next time!

          Liked by 1 person

  1. I love ugly fruit and veg! I worked in an orange packing shed, once upon a time. It really opened my eyes to how much fruit and veg is wasted because it doesn’t look ‘right’, and which countries have the highest standards for ‘attractive’ food (America, Japan…I’m talking about you. When we packed for America, the amount of fruit that didn’t make the cut made me sick).


    • What a great insight. You’re an expert! Thanks so much for sharing your experience. It’s what I suspected. Something has to be done about this waste. So, what happened to the fruit that didn’t make the cut? Was it truly trashed?


      • Usually you’d pack Grade 1 (very pretty fruit, sold as brand names or pricey supermarket own brands) and Grade 2 (not-so-pretty fruit, sold as standard supermarket own brands or ‘value ranges’). Next came ‘Juice Grade’ which was, unsurprisingly, sent/sold elsewhere to be made into Juice – fruit that is clearly absolutely fine to consume, but turned into Juice because it doesn’t meet Grade 1 or 2. Then Sour Rot – basically anything that is rotten, split open, carrying any number of fruit borne diseases etc (sent/sold to feed the local moo cows).

        So although everything was used, a lot that ended up in Juice Grade could have been sent as whole fruit to be consumed. Some of it would have needed a shorter ‘Consume By’ date because of heavy bruising etc, but some of it just had mottled skin or similar.

        When packing for America you’d only have Grade 1, so everything that would usually end up in Grade 2 got sent to juice.

        This packing shed was in Australia by the way, and I can only speak for that company, but I imagine it’s very similar elsewhere.

        (I have some great photos somewhere of oranges that had grown into all manner of weird shapes by the way – some quite explicit looking!!)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Embracing Ugly Veggies | Pioneering The Simple Life – WORLD ORGANIC NEWS

  3. Pingback: My Zero-Work Perennial Vegetables | Pioneering The Simple Life

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