Many of us would be happy to eat imperfect vegetables

Zella says we'll be lost if schools on the continent stop teaching English

ZELLA COMPTON: Brits – the frightened children of Europe

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I should have known that there was something suspect about parsnips in supermarkets before Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall opened up the big debate.

That’s because my parents – my dad in particular – are growers.

Millions of vegetables and fruits are thrown away because they’re the wrong size and shape for us cooks

They’ve always had at least a third of their garden given over to vegetables, many of which have prompted me to turn up my nose. Parsnips are one, sprouts another and wilty lettuce a third.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve now come to really enjoy and look forward to the fresh veg donations (especially as I’m so over iceberg lettuce).

But as a child I was something of an oddity in a pre-packaged environment when all my friends had produce bought from supermarkets, not dug up in gardens (or supplemented with farm shops) and also went on holiday abroad while we trudged up and down a succession of soggy mountains north of Watford.

With my background, being raised by a grower who was also raised by a grower, you’d think I would have worked out that the produce in supermarkets wasn’t quite the same as what comes out of the earth.

But no, it passed me by, even when my mother quite recently stuck an eight-limbed octi-parsnip on top of my antlered stag’s head in my living room, like you do.

The head is silver by the way, small and ornamental. I do not have an actual stag’s head on my wall as I consider that rather gross and it would cause the dog no end of suspicious worrying.

Anyway, there the wilted parsnip has sat, gradually shrivelling into its skin as I’ve been contemplating what to do with it. Now I fear it’s too late and I’ve added to the problem that Hugh has highlighted. I’m rejecting the imperfect.

Seemingly this is what supermarkets do too. Millions of vegetables and fruits are thrown away because they’re the wrong size and shape for us cooks.

The supermarkets appear to blame consumers for refusing to buy the odd-looking fellows, but do we accept that? My eight-legged weirdy parsnip would cause many issues, not least in the peeling. But a parsnip that’s slightly crooked? Not a problem.

I, like many others, am happy to accept imperfect veg and am happy to support Hugh’s campaign to cut down on waste.