Ugly, wonky, crooked, odd. None of these adjectives shout appetising, do they? But, as this photo of produce from Watts Farms shows, it would be an absolute crime for these delicious looking vegetables to end up anywhere other than in their intended target – a human stomach.

Fortunately, the world has woken up to food waste and wonky veg is not only appearing on the shelves of an increasing number of supermarkets, but also now turning up in the kitchens and on the menus of many restaurants and caterers. And it’s not just veg…

Eagle-eyed Andrea Zick at SRA Member OXO Tower Restaurant, Brasserie and Bar read with interest the story in last week’s catering press about Baxter Storey’s move to take less than perfect asparagus from Watts Farms. The producer/supplier grows 36 tonnes of the desirable and delicious green spears, but 15% of this doesn’t quite meet the grade one specifications and can end up as compost – yes really!

Andrea spoke to OXO’s head chef and the restaurant’s procurement team and they quickly initiated a trial of three ‘wonky’ lines – cucumber, peppers and aubergine.

“The head chef said he actually preferred the taste of non-uniform vegetables and he’d be delighted to use more wonky veg,” Andrea says.

The wonky veg comes with an additional bonus too – it’s cheaper. Somewhere in the regions of 25-33% cheaper.

Ed Gray, Director of Watts Farms, says that these lines are proving increasingly popular with foodservice – caterers in particular – and the company is selling about a tonne of wonky cucumbers and the same quantity of peppers every week. This is produce that would otherwise be left to rot in the field.

So what’s not to like? Well, as Andrea points out, there are some potential hidden costs. If the kitchen team has to spend extra time cleaning, peeling and trimming and end up throwing out large quantities then the savings, both cost and environmental are reduced. Some wonky veg is more labour intensive than others.

As we said at the top, it’s not just less than perfect looking, but top quality veg that’s appearing in dishes of SRA Members. One of our fast expanding groups, Friska, based in Bristol – but spreading its wings to Birmingham recently – has found a brilliant solution to the oft bemoaned challenge of serving higher welfare meat.

Friska customers can chow down on free-range chicken and high welfare ham, thanks to some resourceful sourcing. Odd skinless chicken breasts – the ones that don’t quite conform to high grade specs – from top supplier Creedy Carver, are perfect for soups, sandwiches and curries and come in at about half the price of their high spec counterparts. Friska founder Griff Holland is delighted to have found this neat solution which means he meets his and his customers high standards while also keep prices affordable.

We’re sure more SRA Members are rocking wonky food, and we’d love to know what more of you are doing to reduce waste, before the food even reaches the kitchen. Please do call your Account Manager or send an email to hello@thesra.org.