When good vegetables go bad

May 22, 2009

a satisfying morning in the organic case

a productive morning in the organic case

Been working produce at the Hippie Market for about a month now, and am starting to appreciate the challenges of the job. Keeping the department fully and freshly stocked is a bit more difficult than I first understood, especially with only two or three people on at a time. I like that there’s a challenge involved, though, or else I think it would be too monotonous.

The walk-in cooler is like a puzzle: orders come in several times a day, and you have to always be looking for creative ways to find space for them on the shelves. At the same time, you’re always trying to keep the shelves on the floor as full and plentiful-looking as possible. Each box moved out of the cooler, emptied on the floor and then broken down in the prep room is like a little victory, except it doesn’t last long. The orders just keep coming and the food on the shelves just keep going.

At least we hope the food on the shelves just keeps going. The Market has only been open a year, is more than a little overpriced and is in competition with farmers markets, Whole Foods and a number of other natural foods stores in the area. Produce perishes quickly, and there have been times where entire baskets of potatoes and cases of green beans have had to be tossed because they just sat out there and got nasty. That’s kind of depressing.

Its even crazier to me to pull perfectly fine vegetables just because they have a slight imperfection or two. Any kind of wrinkling on a bell pepper or minor abrasion on a zucchini and the vegetable ceases to be worth eating in the eyes of the consumer. To be fair, though, I guess it just ceases to be worth purchasing. If they’re going to spend $2.50 on a head of locally-grown organic lettuce, it’s expected to be the most vibrant specimen available.

At least the offending vegetables don’t go completely to waste. They’re put back into boxes in a corner of the cooler, where anyone who works at the store can help themselves. Whatever’s left over gets picked up by a local survival center, where the bruises are cut away and the food gets cooked up into food for the homeless. This is indeed a consolation, but it still makes me a little ill when I see people turn up their noses at perfectly healthy, organic produce just because it doesn’t look like a plastic model.

Maybe I should force one of those people to eat one of these cucumbers we found behind the conventional display:

unlike 90% of the things we pull, these are hideously rotten

unlike 90% of the things we pull, these are hideously rotten

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One Response to “When good vegetables go bad”

  1. joe said

    that cucumber looks delish.

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