3 Tips for Buying Imperfect Produce

May 15, 2015

In Overheard, we're sharing all of the best tidbits we couldn't help picking up onfrom smart tips on the Hotline to funny quotes heard around the water cooler and moreso we can all be in the know.


Championing ugly produce is nothing new, but if you've missed the memo, buying imperfect produce is important for many reasons. It ensures the numerous gallons of water required to grow the food isn't wasted and it directly reduces food waste—which in turn reduces the amount of greenhouse gases produced by perfectly edible food that is otherwise left to rot in landfills just because it looks a little wonky.

Shop the Story

So, we were thrilled to learn that Imperfect Produce's crowdfunding campaign was fully funded this past weekend. Imperfect Produce plans to deliver "cosmetically-challenged" fruits and vegetables (meaning they're ugly but still perfectly good to eat) straight to your door for 30% less than what you'd pay at the supermarket for visually perfect ones. They eventually plan to provide ugly produce to people all over the country, but they're starting with Oakland and Berkeley this summer. If you can't wait, or if you live elsewhere, here are 3 tips for getting your hands on imperfect produce:

1) Head to your local farmers market. Right off the bat you're more likely to find produce that isn't supermarket-perfect: carrots that aren't completely straight, eggplants with appendages, and mottled tomatoes.
2) Ask vendors if they have any "seconds"—the produce that isn't as pretty. These items might not be set out on their tables for admiring, but they are just as tasty. Plus, they're perfect for applications where they won't be used whole: think tomatoes for canning or soup, or fruit that will be turned into jam or a pie.
3) Establish a relationship with your farmer. Visit the same stall every week, and he or she will be more likely to remember your desire for seconds, and perhaps even set some aside for you.

Have you seen perfectly-imperfect produce at your local farmers market? Share the craziest looking fruits and vegetables on Instagram with the hashtag #F52Farmstand and the location.

Photo by James Ransom

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

I like esoteric facts about vegetables. Author of the IACP Award-nominated cookbook, Cooking with Scraps.

1 Comment

Susan May 16, 2015
Hahaha! Lordy. If I avoided imperfect produce, I would consume less than a tenth of what comes out of my garden, probably even less. Of the enormous bowl of strawberries I picked yesterday, at least half had been drilled by slugs. Not an issue. Out came the paring knife and the slug side went to the compost for healthful repurposing and the other half went into the freezer for future smoothies, jam, and other fruity goodies. In forty some years of growing my own, I haven't killed anyone yet. :)