Save the planet! Buy ugly apples!

And you thought that you were prejudice-free. Yes you, with your Friends of the Earth mug and your cotton sandals. You may parade for Pussy Riot, but would you ever eat an ugly pear?

Spare a thought for the misshapen plum, the bent butternut squash, the not-really-orange orange. There’s a world of odd, blemished, phallic fruit and vegetables out there: a common laughing (and certainly not vegetable) stock.

Supermarkets exercise a lot of clout when it comes to the produce we see on their shelves. Only the sleekest, shiniest, sproutiest groceries find their way into our supermarket aisles, and thus our homes. It is a surprise, when shopping at smaller independent stores, to see how knobbly most potatoes look, or how colourful is the average apple. When we grew our own tomatoes at home, I was dismayed to see how small they were. Where were my ripe, round, brick-red buffalos? What were these green, contorted lumps? My own offerings fell short compared to the polished perfection on offer in Tesco.

Take the common apple. All major supermarkets ask for certain types, but apples also have to be a very specific colour – ‘at least half of the surface of the fruit red coloured’- and size – ‘65mm diameter’. Blemishes or russeting – a word we have no reason to know these days – are not allowed; nor is fruit which is too colourful, or not colourful enough.

A lot of this is due to the EU’s strict categorisation of fruit. Class 1 fruit, which has severe cosmetic restrictions, is requested by almost all supermarkets. Even cooking apples, which are usually peeled, have to look presentable.

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