An astonishing amount of food waste occurs within the link between supermarkets and their fresh fruit and vegetable suppliers. As a matter of routine, perfectly edible fruit and vegetables are rejected before they even reach supermarket shelves simply because they do not conform to standard shapes and sizes.
As a grower of fruit and vegetables I have come to love and cherish the knobbly potato, the misshapen pear and the twisted parsnip root. Indeed, I see their very blemishes as a form of perfection, and I deeply mistrust supermarket fruit and vegetables which look, cosmetically, “perfect”. That’s because it usually means that in selecting a fruit or vegetable primarily for its appearance the supermarkets have subordinated far more important characteristics like flavour and texture. In the case of some imported fruit, a perfect-looking, wrinkle free skin can also be a sign that it has been sprayed with fungicidal wax.
I have long believed that this unhealthy obsession with “perfect” looking fresh produce has actually far more to do with supermarket logistics than with true customer preferences.
So It was with great interest that I read, a few months ago, about an initiative by the supermarket chain Waitrose to sell tomatoes that were either misshapen or which had fallen from the vine but were otherwise perfectly edible.
I was intrigued to learn what the response of customers might be to finding non-standard tomatoes in the fresh food aisles of the supermarket, not least to see if it supported my theory about the origins of this obsession with cosmetic appearance, so I contacted Waitrose a couple of weeks back to ask for a progress report.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that not only do Waitrose stock misshapen tomatoes but also occasionally other, weather-blemished fruit and vegetables, such as hail-damaged apples. Furthermore, the initiative has been a quite a hit with its customers. At the time I contacted Waitrose they reported that their fruit sales were up by 7 per cent compared to the same period last year.
This supports the view that it is the supermarkets themselves rather than us consumers who demand homogeneous fruit and vegetables. The Waitrose initiative suggests that we will in fact quite happily purchase less than perfectly shaped produce, provided the quality is not affected.
It would be good to see other supermarkets following Waitrose’s lead, and helping to both support farmers and reduce the scandal of food waste in the supply chain.
The ice cream is both vegan and gluten free, and it’s lovely. It’s not so much an apple strudel converted into ice cream format as an ice cream that combines some of the principal ingredients and flavours of a strudel.
It disappeared very quickly when I made it recently for my family, and that is always a pretty good sign.
apple strudel ice cream
30 g sultanas
50 ml pressed apple juice
400 ml full fat organic coconut milk
320 ml organic coconut cream
150 ml maple syrup
2 organic apples
juice of 1 lemon
½ tsp finely grated lemon zest
50 g gluten-free oats
30 g extra-virgin coconut oil
4 tbsp water
80 g unrefined cane sugar
pinch sea salt
1 tsp organic vanilla extract
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1. Soak the sultanas in the apple juice for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F, gas mark 3)
2. Lightly grease a flat baking tray with some coconut oil. Place 1 tbsp of water in a saucepan with half (40 g) of the sugar and the sea salt. Place over a low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the coconut oil. Stir and slowly bring to the boil then turn up the heat and boil vigorously for 1 minute, Remove from the heat, add the oats to the pan and stir. Tip this mixture onto the baking tray and spread it out with a spatula or the back of the spoon. Place in the preheated oven and cook for 5-6 minutes or until light golden brown in colour. Keep checking to make sure the oats don’t burn. Once cooked, remove from the oven and set to one side to cool. Once cool, break up into small pieces and place in the fridge to chill.
3. Peel and core the apples. Chopped into small ½ cm cubes. Drizzle with the lemon juice, to prevent the apples Browning.
4. Put the remaining 40 g of sugar in a separate pan with 1 tbsp water over a low heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and add the apple cubes and their lemon juice soaking liquid. Stir to combine. Cook for 2-3 minutes, so that the apple is just tender but still holding its shape. Remove from the heat and place in a bowl to cool. Once the apple has cooled, strain the raisins and add these to the apples, together with the lemon zest, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. Stir gently to combine then place this mixture in the fridge to chill.
5. Whisk together the maple syrup, vanilla essence, coconut milk and coconut cream and place in the fridge to chill.
6. When you are ready to make the ice cream, first poor the chilled coconut milk mixture into your ice cream maker and leave it churning for 20 minutes, or until the ice cream is starting to thicken. Add the apples and raisins, and the oats. Churn for a few more minutes to combine, then pour the ice cream into a freezer proof container with a lid and freeze for at least 4 hours. Remove the ice cream from the freezer and leave to stand for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.