Fruit and vegetables are under a lot of pressure these days. It’s not just about taste, or how and where they’re grown – they have to be glamorous as well.
Late last year, I was horrified to find that the European Union was scrapping laws on the precise measurements of 26 types of fruit and vegetable. What horrified me was that there were laws to scrap. It seems that years ago, strict guidelines were laid down prohibiting the sale of foodstuffs that don’t reflect a standardized shape – as if Nature should conform to some edible version of the International System Of Units. A banana like a question mark? Offensive and vile. A carrot with an extra leg? My eyes, my eyes! And so on.
If these foodstuffs didn’t measure up – they were officially deemed unfit for sale. This amounted to an estimated 20% of the British harvest that couldn’t be sold (as if it didn’t have enough problems already), driving food prices even higher. No sale? It gets thrown away (oh good, we are pleased). Outcry? You bet – from producers and customers alike, after fiascoes like retailer J Sainsbury being told it couldn’t sell forked carrots relabeled as “witch’s fingers” for Halloween. Sorry, kiddies, off you pop – Europe has spoken.
So this ludicrous system is being ditched on July 1st, and good riddance. But is this worrying trend going to go away? Are we going to start obsessing over how our food looks before it’s cooked? It’s a fact that science is learning the genetic mechanisms that determine food-shape; at the moment, tomatoes are under the spotlight. We could be years away from the commercial version of beauty contests – but for now, from July 1st, I’ll be aiming for the wonkiest, lumpiest fruit and vegetables I can find. No matter what Eurocrats might think, they’re the real shape of things to come.