Naturally Imperfect

imperfect applesThis might be old stuff to you, but our local grocer has started selling imperfect apples. It’s about time. My kids, who are properly brain-washed, love the smallish bruised apples and understand that these specially priced (Cheaper!) fruits are better than apples of perfection. I know that some readers are thinking “Yea, but I’ve been shopping at the farmers markets and get plenty of spotted apples.” We like the markets, too, but they aren’t open year-round here and apples don’t grow locally (except domesticated crab apples – which we have in our yard).  It’s nice to see this alternative for city folks.

Imperfection will save bees. The demand for spotless fruits is satisfied by tonnes of spray. But to be fair to the farmer, it is hard to keep a monoculture crop alive when mites, worms, and fungi jump easily from tree to tree. And though the apples we bought are imperfect, I am aware that they are not organic. Apples are likely the most sprayed of all commercial fruits. USDA data shows that 98% of American apples have residue from at least one of 48 pesticides – even after washing! But buying some small, odd-shaped, bruised and battered apples that may have a scab, worm hole, or fungus ring helps farmers reduce chemicals. It’s a step towards the right finish line.

Sales room on the family farm. You should be able to see the dark jars of goldenrod honey, and to the left, a crate of freshly pruned cabbages.

Sales room on the family farm. You can see the dark jars of
goldenrod honey, and to the far left, a crate of freshly pruned cabbage.

I grew up on a farm that had a vineyard, apricots, chestnuts, peaches, and about 200 apple trees in its orchard. People would come to the farm to buy these, as well as potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and cabbage. I was about 10 when I realized that we sold more cabbage when we peeled off the brownish outer leaves. Give people less and they’ll buy more, it seemed to me at the time. Of course, our customers liked to see the solid green and white heads with all the cabbage worms removed. It seems that consumers are easily fooled. Maybe that’s finally changing. Can we learn to say “Yuck” to perfect apples, knowing they carry unseen chemicals, and embrace the less pretty ones? We can try.

scabby appleThere is a movement to honour, praise, and eat so-called ugly apples. An apple afflicted with flyspeck fungus, for example, looks especially unappetizing, but the blotches and scabs do not affect the safety or taste of the apple. In fact, it is likely safer than most apples without the fungus.

I think the idea is catching on here.  Hopefully the Naturally Imperfect line won’t become so popular that the price will go up or the crates will empty out.  Imperfection, though, shouldn’t run out – the grocery store can always use a bat to beat up some of the shiny apples.  But I think we’ll know the difference.

About Ron Miksha

Ron Miksha is a bee ecologist working at the University of Calgary. He is also a geophysicist and does a bit of science writing and blogging. Ron has worked as a radio broadcaster, a beekeeper, and Earth scientist. (Ask him about seismic waves.) He's based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
This entry was posted in Culture, or lack thereof, Ecology, Pesticides, Save the Bees and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Naturally Imperfect

  1. Emily Scott says:

    The unsprayed apples from my allotment tree taste great to me.

    Liked by 1 person

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