Tuesday, November 10, 2015

I'm Good At Growing Ugly Food

I've discovered that I'm quite good at growing ugly food. When I first started gardening, I was depressed to see what I was producing. I was a failure, so I believed. I couldn't even grow a radish right! So many ugly carrots. So many misshapened peppers. Weird green beans. Curled snow peas. Funny looking potatoes. What was wrong with me? 

My only experience with veggies was what I saw in the supermarkets. They looked so pretty and perfect. So what was wrong with my garden? 


Nobody told me that what ends up in the supermarkets is the cream of the crop, only a percentage of what is grown out in the fields. A lot of what Mother Nature produces is misshapened. All that ugly stuff ends up being processed into soups, prepared foods, etc. Once it's cut up or puréed, you don't know that it had been ugly. 

Why are my veggies ugly? Lots of reasons that I've discovered, and probably many more that I haven't figured out yet.....

...insects. Aphids, stink bugs, flea beetles, caterpillars, and more can damage veggies as they grow. Sometimes the "stung" veggies are still edible but odd shaped or have a spot that needs to be cut off. 
...too much nitrogen fertilizer. Carrots can get pretty "hairy" looking if I've used too much manure or compost. They are perfectly edible, just need to be peeled. 
...irregular watering. It took me a while to discover why my potatoes sometimes turned out knobby. And cucumbers develop into odd shapes when there isn't enough water in the soil. 
...the variety I choose to grow. Not all tomatoes are perfect round globes. I tried growing many old heirlooms and came up with some pretty odd looking fruits.
...rocky soil. Root crops can grow really weird shaped in rocky soil. Try growing sweet potatoes some day in heavily rocky ground. Interesting. 
...too much water at the wrong time. Root crops split, tomatoes split, even bananas split with too much rain. 
...infertile soil. Ugly carrots, turnips, beets, and more. They're really not something I want to eat because they're not only puny, they are fibrous too. 
...unbalanced soil. If the pH is way out of wack or if a particular nutrient is off kilter, ugly veggies can result. Not only ugly, but often not pleasant to eat. 
...sometimes they just grow that way. I've gotten carrots with three tops. Green peppers with funny looking knobs growing out the side. Two bananas fused together. 
...incomplete pollination. This happens quite noticeably with cucumbers and corn with some strange looking results.
...over crowding. I often tried to grow carrots, beets, and many other veggies too closely in the bed. I ended up with plenty of skinny, misshappen, non-edible fibrous root things that surely weren't what I would find in the supermarket. 
...disease. While pests are fairly easy to see and figure out, I find that diseases are more difficult for me to identify. Some I've gotten good at, such as root knot nematode (a "bad microscopic worm" that makes the roots knotty looking). Others are harder for me to figure out. But some of my misshaped veggies result from various diseases. 
...too much sun. Some veggies get sunburned and form ugly burnt spots. 
...windburn. The wind can whip tender vegetables against a stone or stem, resulting in surface scars. Still perfectly edible but scarred. 
...physical trapping. I've had cukes, tomatoes, and squash get caught up against a trellis while growing, resulting in a weird shaped fruit. 
...debris build up. This happens with bananas quite easily. The leaves from the nearby ohia trees fall and get caught in the banana bunches. If left there, the leaves cause the banana peels to scar and discolor.

I no longer care if my veggies are ugly. It's the nutritional value that's number one in my book now. I use the pretty vegetables for trading and selling. The ugly ones go onto my own dinner table. 

1 comment:

  1. Yah, all those "less than perfect" results are found in my excuse for a garden, too. But they weren't sprayed with malathion or whatever, nor pumped up with concentrated fertilizers - nah, stressed plants by my tardy attention produce lots of odd stuff, but it looks and tastes fine in the soup. I call those stunning arrays of produce in the market "culture shock", like walking along Rodeo Drive instead of Main Street.