When I was 19, I did a summer internship on a family-run organic farm outside Bellingham. I worked in the fields all day planting, harvesting, and weeding, and in the evenings ate with the family in the farmhouse. I worked up a serious appetite, and relished the simple yet delicious meals comprised largely of vegetables from the farm.
We often ate the culls, a word I had never heard until that summer. Throughout the day, any vegetables a little out of the ordinary got culled for the house kitchen—carrots twisted around each other, the smaller tomatoes, the bigger zucchinis, the deformed onions, or the broccoli that was too open. They weren’t ideal for selling to the grocery stores or at the farmer’s market, but they were still the best veggies I ever had.
The farmer would slice up heirloom tomatoes for us to taste at dinner, and the family would talk about the flavors. Until then, I had never had a tomato that wasn’t a Roma. I learned that there were deep purple tomatoes and green striped ones; tomatoes better for saucing and some better for eating fresh. I hadn’t known that there were so many more varieties of fruits and vegetables than you see at the grocery store.
That summer changed my awareness of the food we eat and piqued my interest in food systems. It changed the way I thought about waste, and got me excited about heirloom and unique plant varieties.
There are organizations in Seattle like City Fruit that care about these things, too. City Fruit harvested 28,000 pounds of fresh fruit from right here in the city that would otherwise have gone to waste, donating much of it into the emergency food system. As was the case on the farm, the fruit comprises a range of varieties, including less common ones like our grandparents may have eaten. Please consider supporting the work of this proactive organization that matches the abundance of urban fruit with a real local need. Celebrate #GivingTuesday by becoming a City Fruit Member or sign up to volunteer today.
Amber Casali is a City Fruit Ambassador.