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Three Ways to Turn Ugly Veggies into Attractive Menu Options

02/17/2015 08:57 EST | Updated 04/19/2015 05:59 EDT
Jedraszak via Getty Images

What springs to mind when you think of "ugly vegetables"? For retailers in North America, the UK and Europe, they are simply the vegetables that do not look good enough to be sold in stores. The grocery chains' strict visual standards mean that up to 40 per cent of produce may never appear on store shelves. Instead, it is either sold at farmers' markets or to food companies or simply goes to waste.

Some retailers, however, are adopting a different approach to imperfect vegetables. In spring 2014, Intermarché, the third largest supermarket chain in France, developed an imaginative marketing campaign, Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables, to sell so-called inferior produce at a 30 per cent discount. The move has been a win-win-win for everyone: farmers have sold more of their crops, consumers have had smaller grocery bills and Intermarché has increased its business.

Giving Ugly Vegetables a Chance

Clever campaigns such as Intermarche's capitalize on the growing social movement to reduce food waste and on consumers' willingness to buy nutrient-dense, misshapen vegetables for a lower cost. Vegetables are also playing a starring role in a range of dishes as home cooks and chefs use a variety of cooking methods to include them in everything from appetizers to desserts. In addition, food trenders, including myself, are suggesting that ugly root vegetables, such as kohlrabi, celery root and parsnips, will replace basic white potatoes to offer new flavours and textures in recipes.

So, with all that in mind, how do you go about turning your ugly vegetable into attractive menu option? Look no further than the top techniques of puréeing, shredding and spiralizing.

Puréeing

Puréeing veggies is one of the easiest ways to get the recommended seven to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Whether raw or cooked, puréed vegetables can add wonderful colour and nutrition to a meal. For instance, they can partly replace fat in soups, sauces, casseroles and desserts.

Steps and Equipment

  • Wash the vegetables under running water and peel them if required. Depending on the recipe, you may also need to blanch or cook them.
  • With a sharp knife, cut them into small pieces.
  • Place the vegetables in a food processor on the purée setting and blend away. For a thinner purée, add liquid, such as a vegetable stock or water.
My Recommendation

Beets are a favourite vegetable of mine, and I love making the ugly ones into hummus. This beet hummus recipe is easy and offers a great way to sneak veggies into your day.

Shredding

Shredding veggies is a simple way to break them into smaller pieces, making them more delicate and attractive to eat. Remember, shred means to make long, narrow strips. Finely shred means to make long, thinner strips. Shredded vegetables, such as zucchini add a nutritious punch to homemade breads and desserts.

Steps and Equipment

  • Wash the vegetables under running water and peel them if required.
  • Shred the veggies with a hand or box grater. Or you can put the vegetables into the food processor, using the correct settings.
  • You can easily shred vegetables such as cabbage, spinach and lettuce (with higher water content) with a sharp knife instead of using the food processor.

My Recommendation

Why not shred those ugly carrots, jicama, turnips or celery root? These can be tough and unattractive to eat in salads, but shredding them makes all the difference.

Spiralizing

Spiralizing transforms your favourite vegetables (even the ugly ones) into spaghetti-like strips. Many health-conscious cooks seem to be embracing spiralizing. It is also popular among paleo followers and those consuming a gluten-free diet. Raw vegetable spirals work well in salads and as colourful garnishes. If they are cooked, they can take centre stage on the plate, either topped with a simple tomato sauce or marinated in a dressing.

Steps and Equipment

  • Wash the vegetables under running water and peel them.
  • Follow the spiralizer's instructions for feeding the vegetables through.
  • There are a variety of hand-held and counter-top spiralizers. As I'm completing my own research to buy one, I have found good reviews for counter-top spiralizers ranging from $35 to $65. I recommend checking out a few online and reading consumers' reviews before buying one.

My Recommendation

Zucchini, eggplant and sweet potatoes are popular veggies for spiralizing. Invent your own inspired meals or reinvent some classics by picking your favourite vegetables to spiralize.

The trend of selling ugly produce has exploded around the world since Intermarché's Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables campaign last spring. We all know it's what's on the inside that counts! So jump on this bandwagon in your own kitchen and create attractive ways to include these delicious and nutrient-dense imperfect veggies in your meals. Enjoy!

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