April 19, 2017 § 9 Comments
Ripe is sweet and thin-skinned, juicy-wet and delicious, and chances are you’d put it in the trash or compost bin without taking a bite, because to taste delicious you have to get past ugly.
Ripe is bruised and it leaks. You can’t stack it, that’s for sure. Where one piece of fruit touches another, ripe darkens and weeps; you’ll never find ripe in a grocery store.
Instead you find perfect.
Grocery store fruits and vegetables are firm, smooth and unblemished, but not ripe. I don’t fault grocery stores. Unripe stacks well, it has a longer shelf life.
When you bite into grocery store produce it crunches, and delivers a hint of flavor, a preview of coming attractions.
As shoppers, not farmers, we think we know what an orange, a melon, a strawberry tastes like, but we don’t, and we don’t even know it.
We shop with our eyes for fruit that is aesthetically pleasing, trained to do so because, practically? Ripe, especially in bulk, is a mess.
But suddenly, our whole neighborhood is discovering what fruits and vegetables taste like when they are ugly-ripe and juicy enough to drip off your chin because we are the lucky recipients of green grapes, some of which are beginning to raisin, banana’s ready for banana bread, pears with brown age spots, oranges so ripe you could probably eat the peels, potatoes beginning to bud—fruits and vegetables too ugly to sell.
As a food desert, a low-income neighborhood and a nonprofit we qualify to receive produce that can no longer pass as eye candy.
All it takes from us is a truck, a willingness to drive over to the market when they are ready to get rid of stuff, neighbors who don’t mind sorting not long after dawn, and a community garden that can always use a little more compost int the form of fruit that has gone past ripe to rotten.
But the line between ripe and rotten is much further down the road than grocery stores have led us to believe.
Even if one side of that apple is bunged and brown, the other side is probably just fine.
And you don’t have to bite into a piece of fruit that is so soft it dimples when you touch it. You can cook it down into pear and apple butter, bake it into banana bread, no sugar needed.
The pear butter in our fridge has just one ingredient. Pear. It is as sweet as any commercial jam.
I now understand why insects swarm fallen fruit gone soft on the ground. Bugs don’t know from ugly. The sweet nectar of ripe lures them in clouds, drives them ecstatic.