My last few days on the finca were spent zincing in the morning and cooking in the evening. Zincing consists of walking the terraces of avocado trees and sprinkling zinc on the roots of any tree with round leaves. The leaves appear round when the soil lacks zinc. Round leaves result in round avocadoes and apparently no one wants to buy an avocado shaped like an orange. Only the pear-shaped avocadoes sell because that is what we’re accustomed to. Pre-zincing, I had never thought much about how the shapes of various fruits and veggies are associated with quality. At the coop or the farmer’s market back in Brooklyn, I admit to gravitating towards the healthier, better-looking apple and rejecting the odd-shaped one. I know that aside from the obvious bruise or moldy patch, the lumpy apple will taste exactly the same as the perfectly smooth apple. Could it be that the round avocadoes (or the bumpy apples or the oval oranges) are the Susan Boyle’s of the fruit world – a bit frumpy and unattractive at first glance, but startlingly delicious underneath? I think so!
It turns out that thousands of pounds of perfectly good fruits and veggies are tossed out each year due to our unwillingness to consume the cosmetically challenged. I recently became aware of this fruit-tossing phenomenon while reading Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver:
“Supermarkets only accept properly packaged, coded, and labeled produce that conforms to certain standards of color, size, and shape. Melons can have no stem attached; cucumbers must be no less than six inches long, no more than eight. Crooked eggplants need not apply. Every crop yields a significant proportion of perfectly edible but small or oddly shaped vegetables that are trash by market standards. It takes as much work to grow a crooked vegetable as a straight one, and the nutritional properties are identical.”
If only we could embrace all fruits and veggies, be they wonky, lumpy or smooth. I am going to do my best to try. I might be hard-pressed to find a less than perfect pear at the grocery store, but I vow to seek out the round avocado and the lumpy apple at the farmer’s market from here on out.