The Good, the Bad and the Ugli


Hands up if you’re old enough to remember ‘That’s Life’!

If you do, can you also remember the carrots sporting cheeky protuberances and X-rated parsnips? Now, when was the last time you saw one of those ‘character veggies’ in the supermarket? Not for ages, we bet!

And that’s a real shame. Not just because we all need a laugh now and then, but because beneath their eccentricities, quirky veg is just as delicious and wholesome as the polished and identically-sized fruit and veg you’ll see on supermarket shelves.

The reason we can only get cosmetically perfect veg lies with EU regulations that have had farmers in a two-decade stranglehold. These insist that 36 of our most popular fruit and veg conform to ridiculously strict rules on size, shape and colour. Did I hear you mention curvy cucumbers?

Though some of the regulations have relaxed a little, lots of the fruits and veg that don’t conform to some bureaucrat’s idea of perfection still get consigned to processing or animal feed, or worse – end up in the rubbish tip. We pay twice for this perfection – in the increased cost of the veg that is sold and in the financial, environmental and health costs of all those chemical treatments that are used to keep maverick veg in line.

All of which seems a bit like PC (Perfect Carrots) gone mad.

But the fennel’s fighting back. The National Trust has teamed up with Delicious magazine to demand change. They are calling for:

  • farmers to be allowed to sell all their qood quality, if cosmetically challenged produce. This should see prices drop and help people on a tight budget afford their 5-a-day.
  • Shoppers to buy the less than perfect produce (marked Class II or ‘for cooking’).
  • Consumers to write to their MEPs asking for the grading system to be ditched so that knobbly veg no longer has to be labelled second best.

Let’s vote with our purses and celebrate the knobbly by buying, cooking and eating less than perfect veg! It will be good for the farmers, good for the environment and good for us too. And a lot more fun when you do come across that cheeky carrot.

Find out more about the campaign on the Delicious magazine website ( or by searching for ‘we love knobbly veg’ on the National Trust website (

And get your camera out! You’ll need it to capture that potato that looks like the Chippendales.