Timing really is everything. With a spouse who had switched to a vegetable-based diet and my own ongoing concerns about food waste I had become intrigued by the “ugly produce” delivery service Misfits Market. Whether online or walking down the street, I saw their name and boxes of imperfect but nutritious fruits and vegetables everywhere. As a result, when a PR rep reached out and asked if I would be interested in covering Misfits Market, I took an extremely rare leap and said, “I just might. Go ahead and send a sample box of produce.”
What’s ugly produce?
Ever come across a curled bell pepper, forked carrot or twisted parsnip at a chain supermarket? Probably not as these shops tend to focus on uniform, blemish-free foods. However, if you frequent farm stands and farmers’ markets and seek out organic, non-GMO goods, you’ve probably seen misshapen produce. Odd in appearance, these otherwise wholesome veggies and fruits usually are sold at reduced prices, that is, if they even make it to markets. Often, they get tossed out merely because they’re not as pretty and profitable as their perfect counterparts. Yep, it’s that old bias against the less beautiful and it’s a costly bias at that. In the United States we waste 30 to 40 percent of our food supply. That’s a shameful amount of nourishing food left to rot in landfills.
Subscription delivery services such as the East Coast-based Misfits Market attempt to end this cycle of waste. They specialize in bringing discounted, organic, unusual looking, non-GMO produce to consumer’s doorsteps. Customers choose a box size (10 to 12 pounds or 18 to 20 pounds) for weekly or bi-weekly delivery. The produce that they receive largely comes from certified organic farms and farmers’ cooperatives in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. As Misfits Market expands its reach, the locations of its food sources will spread out as well. Presently, it delivers throughout the East Coast, Ohio and West Virginia.
Unexpected culinary pleasures and treasures
What customers receive depends upon the season and availability. As Misfits Market customer and Western Pennsylvania resident Jeanie Steele says, “It’s like Christmas every two weeks. You never know what you’ll get.”
Drawn to Misfits Market by the prospect of stopping food from going to waste, Jeanie also appreciates the diversity of offerings and how she is challenged to try new dishes. “I ended up sautéing the dandelion greens with garlic and onion from the box and they were delicious. Bok choy I never would have bought and now I will,” Jeanie says. While Jeanie experiments with vegetables, I’ve been tinkering with fruit, making citrus glazes and nectarine salsas for arctic char and monkfish. As we’ve discovered, with Misfits Market you get both the familiar, including onions, mushrooms and peas, as well as the less common, such as black radishes and patty pan squash.
With the exception of the summer radishes, which I gave to a friend, I used all of the produce within a week of delivery. The fruits, which had been placed on the bottom of the box and arrived bruised, were the only items that I rushed to consume. Everything else stayed fresh. Ultimately, if I didn’t have access to farmers’ markets carrying seasonal, ugly, organic fruits and veggies, I would sign up for a Misfits Market subscription. I am certainly a fan of how it provides a wide range of wholesome, flavorful produce while working toward reducing, if not eradicating, the problem of food waste.
MUSHROOM-PEA STIR FRY
Along with glazes and salsa, I used the produce in my sample box to make the following mushroom-pea stir fry. In the ingredients list (MM) indicates that the item was in my Misfits Market box
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1/2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
Pinch of salt
2 small yellow onions (MM), halved and sliced
8 ounces button mushrooms (MM), cleaned and sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
8 ounces snap peas (MM), trimmed
1 medium zucchini (MM), quartered and sliced
1 to 2 cups spinach leaves (MM), optional for serving
Steamed rice, optional for serving
Whisk together the soy sauce, honey and grated ginger and set aside.
In a large frying or stir fry pan heat the olive oil on medium-high.
Add the onions, mushrooms and pinch of salt. Fry, stirring continually, for 1 minute.
Add the garlic, peas and zucchini. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes, until the vegetables have softened slightly.
Pour in the soy sauce-honey-ginger combo and stir to coat all the vegetables. Simmer for 1 minute before serving over optional spinach or steamed rice.