Attention to ugly produce—fruits and vegetables that have been bruised or marred, or that simply grew into unconventional shapes—is one of the recent triumphs in the now-mainstream fight against food waste. Companies like Hungry Harvest purchase produce that would have otherwise been thrown away and sell it via a kind of CSA model. French supermarket Intermarché started selling irregular fruits and vegetables in 2014, and other European companies have followed.
With an estimated one-third of all produce around the globe thrown away each year, the environmental impact of saving this deformed but perfectly edible produce is clear. What's more, according to an article by NPR's The Salt today, ugly produce may have an added benefit: better nutritional value.
Apple orchardist Eliza Greenman suspects that because imperfect fruits or vegetables have battled the elements in some way, they may have higher antioxidant counts, helping them survive.
"I believe stress can help create a superfruit," she says.
A handful of studies confirms Greenman's hypothesis, NPR points out. Microbiologist Martin L. Pall, professor emeritus at Washington State University, says that many longevity diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, are rich in the very antioxidants, like resveratrol, that marred fruits and vegetables are said to contain in higher levels. More research is definitely necessary, but it's an intriguing proposition and just one more reason to celebrate those less-than-attractive apples.
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