In the agriculture world, fruits and vegetables are categorized as either firsts or seconds. Firsts are attractive and homogeneous. Seconds are lumpy, knobby, bent, or otherwise misshapen. Even on the small scale of that family farm where I spent a growing season – and a mere eight acres were in production at any given time – we had to differentiate between the two grades while prepping for the farmers markets and packing up our weekly boxes for the CSA shareholders. Asparagus is one of the first real signs of spring on a farm (after having eaten some form of kale and bean soup for the first month I was there, I sure was happy to see those little guys sprouting in May), and it wasn’t until I harvested asparagus that I realized two things: 1) asparagus stalks grow out of the ground but they’re part of a big fern-y bush; and 2) asparagus stalks aren’t necessarily straight.
Fine, these were. But a lot of them were crooked, so after harvesting them all, back at the barn (yep, that wooden structure in the background), we got to sort them into two different piles. Asparagus has such a short-lived growing season that us interns couldn’t just pick them indiscriminately for our own cooking, like we could with just about everything else, and thus the seconds were my favorite because they ended up in our kitchen.
This kind of discrimination happens all the way up the production scale, to the mega-farms that grow one or two vegetables on say, 1000 acres. But instead of hungry interns happily taking the seconds home to cook, those perfectly edible seconds end up rotting at the field’s edge. That’s a little bit hard to, well, stomach, considering that most of those veggies are simply going to get chopped up (i.e. disfigured) for their final destination in a casserole. And that doesn’t even address the issue of so many Americans who for one reason or another lack easy access to fresh produce.
Europe has been more proactive than the US on this front, and the latest example of creative yet logical thinking comes from a supermarket chain in France. Watch this two and a half minute video to learn more about their marketing campaign for so-called “inglorious fruits and vegetables” – and how well received it’s been.
Which grocery store chain should we petition first? ::cough cough:: Whole Foods ::cough cough:: ?