I’ve found many crazy-looking edibles in my garden, but the tomato I named “Casper the Friendly Cyclops” is the most memorable.
This misshapen, but smiling, tomato could be a winner in the WesternGardeners.com annual Weird Veggie and Funny Fruit photo contest.
Every year gardeners send in images of the kookiest produce they pull from their gardens.
The vegetables are certainly entertaining and it’s always fun to guess what went wrong to cause those weird-looking shapes. Some environmental problem is the most common reason behind these oddballs.
In the case of Casper, the weather was exceptionally cold when the tomato plant was starting to set fruit. That’s what caused all those odd shapes on the blossom end of the tomato.
When carrots grow in rocky soil, their roots can form into strange configurations.
Lack of growing space in the garden can cause summer squash to fuse together or make cucumbers curl into a ball instead of growing straight.
While weird veggies can win prizes — including my blue-ribbon-winning butt tomato — the majority of less-than-perfect produce grown commercially in the U.S. is usually thrown away.
However right now on Twitter @UglyFruitAndVeg there’s one guy trying to end food waste by celebrating ugly produce. He’s captured the imaginations of over 14,000 followers who appreciate his campaign.
If you follow along you’ll see him post photos of strawberries that look like flowers or butterflies, ears of corn that look like they’re waving, carrots throwing the peace sign and eggplants with faces. Each image comes with a clever caption.
I did a little digging, and the man behind the site is Jordan Figueiredo who lives and works in California.
He’s passionate about changing the culture of food waste around the world. He estimates that people waste between 20-40% of commercially-grown produce just because it doesn’t meet the high standards of perfection in looks, although all of the produce is still edibly nutritious.
That’s a lot of food that could be put to use feeding hungry folks.
A big part of his campaign is to get grocery stores to sell imperfect fruits and vegetables at a discount. Some progressive countries, like Australia, France, Canada, Germany and others, have started pilot programs to test that very approach to preventing food waste.
The tagline for @UglyFruitAndVeg says it all: “Because all produce should be loved and eaten, not wasted.”
Count me in. After all, I’ve been promoting crazy-looking produce for years, as well as campaigning to make sure more fresh fruits and vegetables reach the people who need it the most.
I hope you’ll join the growing movement!