Cooking with Ugly Vegetables

Originally published in the Downtown Journal on July 3, 2017.

It won’t surprise you to hear that hail storms over the past couple months have wreaked havoc on power lines, siding and trips to the beach, but have you stopped to think about the impact the storms have on local food? If you get outside of the Twin Cities or have a chance to talk to local growers at a farmers market, you know that recent severe weather has been devastating for Minnesota fruit and vegetable farmers. Storms and strong winds have upheaved many greenhouse “high tunnels” that warm and shelter tomatoes, melons, cucumbers and other hothouse crops. Hail has also shattered holes in strawberries and leafy crops like lettuce, kale and Swiss chard. While it’s true that many farmers have crop insurance on high-price items like strawberries, the payout is nowhere close to the prices they would have received at markets. So what can we city-dwellers do to help? Buy ugly vegetables!

Farmers in Minnesota have been throwing thousands of pounds of perfectly edible crops into the compost over the past month due to storm damage. Most wholesalers and retailers do not accept ugly crops because of their shorter shelf life and the fact that customers simply don’t want to buy them. Farmer Laura Frerichs, owner of Loon Organics Farm in Hutchinson, finally had enough of throwing out her ugly produce and is now offering edible but slightly bruised vegetables (also called “seconds”) for sale at her booth at the Mill City Farmers Market. Last Saturday, she and her staff put out a sign declaring, “Due to hail, our crops look a bit ugly, but we think ugly produce is beautiful. Please support your local farmers who lost crops in the storm!”

Greens with holes on the leaves, a cracked tomato or a zucchini with a few dents are all perfectly edible, and will look and taste the same in most recipes. When cooking with ugly produce, simply clean it like you would any other produce and remove major blemishes with a paring knife. Bruising does cause crops to rot quicker, so ugly produce should be used as soon as possible. Soups, pestos, and salsas are all great ways to utilize ugly produce without anyone knowing the difference. Below is a recipe for zucchini hummus made in a food processor. For an extra boost flavor add a handful of hail-shredded greens to the recipe!

Support over 120 local farmers, food makers and artists every Saturday at the Mill City Farmers Market, located in Minneapolis’ downtown east neighborhood next to the Mill City Museum and the Guthrie Theater or at our new Tuesday Night Market near US Bank Stadium! Both markets offer local groceries, prepared food for picnics or to-go, cooking demonstrations, kids activities, live music and more!

Get the recipe for Zucchini Hummus

Zucchini Hummus Cooking with Ugly Vegetables

Mill City Cooks