In Praise of Ugly Vegetables: Canada No 2 Carrots

Did you know that there are 3 grades of carrots in Canada?  Which one would you prefer?

  • Canada No 1
  • Canada No 1 – Cut Crowns
  • Canada No 2

In Praise of Ugly Vegetables: Canada No 2 Carrots February Carrot

If you picked either of the first two options, I hope to change your mind!

Grading only applies if the tops are removed.  The difference between a Canada No 1 and a Canada No 1 – Cut Crown is that the second type has had part of the top (the crown or shoulder) removed.  This is what is typically offered at our grocery store.

Canada No 2 Carrots

Many people think of Canada No 2 carrots as defects.  I prefer to think of them as unique.  Here’s a few sample ‘defects’ that would result in a carrot being considered a No 2 (this is from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s website and guidelines):

  • may be slightly forked, that is the forking is not longer than 1 inch (25.4 mm). Broken off forks would make the carrot a cull;
  • the carrot is curved, but not so badly so that there is a constriction which would cause a loss of more than 10% by weight;
  • that the specimen is not so badly corkscrew shaped, lumpy or ridged that the appearance is seriously affected.
  • This grade may have crown damage to the extent that the appearance or saleability is not seriously affected. This will be judged by permitting to a greater degree the amount allowed in Canada No. 1.
  • Score only if the carrot has several cracks which in the aggregate would be longer than 3/4 the length of the specimen, or if the crack is more than half the length, or so deep and wide that the appearance or saleability is affected.
  • Score any injury which wastes more than 10% of the carrot.

There’s a full list of the scoring criteria at the CFIA website.

Note that Canada No 2 carrots are still carrots.  They taste like carrots, cook like carrots, behave like carrots.  And, when they are chopped, they often look identical to No. 1 carrots.

It is estimated that 10 to 15 tonnes of ‘ugly’ vegetables are destroyed in Austria every week.  It is estimated that 15 million tonnes of food is thrown out in the UK every year and that one of the root causes is the insistence of grocery stores to sell ‘perfect’ looking fruit and vegetables (s0urce).

It is also estimated that Canadians waste $27-billion of food per year and 30% of food in North America doesn’t make it to grocery store because of how it looks (source).  Our large grocery system creates a system that offers us ‘perfect’ options – often at the direct result of loss to the farmers and a tremendous amount of waste.  There is enough food to feed every single person on the planet but the perception that we insist on ‘perfect’ vegetables is driving the cost of our food up, hurting sustainability, decreasing farmers profits and create vase amounts of waste.

Beyond their defects, Canada No 2 Carrots are:

  • Sustainable (they reduce waste)
  • Highly supportive of the farmer (produces revenue for labor otherwise lost)
  • Cheaper (they are often sold at a reduced cost)
  • More interesting (they come in all sorts of wonderful and fabulous shapes and sizes)

But you generally can’t find them at the grocery store.  We buy them from farmers markets; they are often the first things to be sold (there is a market) and not always available.  But when they are, I jump on them!

Are you a fan of ugly carrots?  Will you try them next time?  What other ugly fruit and vegetables do you like?

Comments

  1. Al Hunter says:

    Being old, disabled, and without a car leaves me vulnerable to local supermarkets. At the prices charged for vegetables, you have to expect the best looking, tasting, nutritious product available. So I just buy a few. If I had the option to buy greater quantities of a lower grade at a cheaper price I’d be juicing carrots and shredding them (although that’s really hard work for old arthritic hands without power tools) for carrot cake, etc.So I’d be healthier if the vegetables were uglier.

    • Al,

      I always value your candor and outlook. It also frustrates me that you have to make such sacrifices because of how our systems are set up. Perhaps it’s time for a local CSA delivery that only deals with 2nds? I wish I had a magic wand.. :(

      Joel

  2. Ha ha ha. You used the term ‘root cause’ in a post about carrots. Good one!

  3. Love the seconds of any vegetable :) Was one of the best parts about working on a farm, i got to buy or take home all sorts of veggies, Cant wait for our farmers markets to start up again

    • We’re spoiled downtown Rich with some markets still lasting through the winter. We’re starting to enter the lean months but still getting greens and many roots. :) J

  4. Deborah Smerk says:

    Our farmers market sells an 11qt of #2 tomatoes for $7.00. Made a huge batch of ketchup for next to nothing.

    • That’s an amazing price.. Which market is it Deborah?

      I’ve heard of some farmers using seconds as an incentive for people to sign up to CSA’s early in the season; they guarantee seconds if people sign up by a certain date (neat marketing idea!)..

      Smiles,

      Joel

  5. Deborah Smerek says:

    Seconds are the best, our market sells seconds of tomatoes for next to nothing. Made a huge batch of ketchup with 11qts of tomatoes that cost $7.

    • I second the tomatoes. My favourite greengrocer in Vancouver sold “dollar bags” that weighed at least 7 lbs.

      There would be bruised, blemished and some mushy ones in the bag, but many would be totally perfect. I have made jars upon jars of sauce, salsa and ketchup with these!

  6. Al Hunter says:

    Deborah, which market are you referring to?
    Is it accessible via ttc using senior transit tickets?
    $7 is a bargain, until you add in all the other costs, bottles, lids, transit, etc.
    And transit is a really big concern.

    • Al,

      I’ve asked Deborah what market as well; she may not have seen your comment so hopefully will get you an answer. :) Frustrating that transit is such an obstacle.

      Joel

      • Sorry Al and Joel I didnt see the questions until now. It is the Main St Farmers Market in Newmarket ON however the farmer -Willowtree Farms- has stalls at the Nathan Philips Market, Metro Hall Market, Mel Lastman and East York markets. Hopefully one of those is close to you.

  7. I wish there was more class 2 veggies and fruit available here (Sweden). I use to buy class 2 carrots, since they are available in most stores here but few other kinds of veggies are sold that way. It’s so wasteful!

    • I so agree Fanny! It sounds like they used to be more available? Any idea why people stopped selling them?

      • I’m only 23 and can’t really remember it being any other way during the times I’ve been grocery shopping on my own. However, I guess prettier veggies gives more profits, and that’s what it is all about for companies, unfortunately.

        • Thanks for sharing Fanny; quite frustrating! It’s amazing to know that this occurs in many places across the world so a giant thank you for sharing from Sweeden. :) Joel

  8. Not choosing the “ugly” vegetables is discrimination and prejudice. Really. Because of what people see in the grocery store they believe that less attractive vegetables are inferior. My mind keeps taking me back to comparing that to discrimination toward attractive vs. unattractive people.

    If others don’t want the ugly veg, I’ll take them. I’ve always shopped on the discount rack of vegetables and fruit going on and now that I’m juicing, I’m especially into that.

  9. Farmer says:

    As a carrot farmer, that supplies a lot of national supermarket chains with produce, it is encouraging to see that consumers would like to see a #2 product. The main problem is convincing the supermarkets to see value in having a #2 on the shelf. It is sad to see what we are throwing away because we cannot sell it. The specs you showed earlier are for CFIA inspections. The customers specs are way more picky on what is acceptable. Many times we have loads refused because the product is a little ugly according to them. They have the power to send #1 product back to the farm and make us give it to the cows for nothing. It is frustrating as a farmer. Too many more years of this and all you will see is product from Mexico and California on the shelf. They are putting local guys out of business with their unobtainable specs.

    Sorry this turned into a rant. Just glad to see that you guys are on our side.

    • Farmer,

      Sorry for the delay – missed this while we were traveling. I am indeed on your side – planning to make some more noise about ugly vegetables in the near future. It’s such a frustrating – yet promising – topic that could help so many people with such little effort. I hadn’t fully thought through the large retailers being even more restrictive (we rarely and almost never find ourselves in them any more) and that really opened my eyes further.

      Thank you for sharing your rant – it further inspires me and know that, together, we’ll all make change happen. :)

      Joel

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