Giving ugly vegetables a nutrient-rich face lift

By Pamela Tyers

30 June 2017

The monster mash. Some ugly vegetables just don’t get a look in. Carrots: Francis Mariani/Flickr/CC; Capsicum: Miran Rijavec/Flickr/CC; Persimmons: canieporci/Flickr/CC; Strawberries: sleepychinchilla/Flickr/CC

When you’re picking fruit and vegetables at the supermarket, do you go for the healthiest-looking, largest and most colourful option? You’re not alone. Research has shown 40, and even up to 60 per cent of farmers’ veggie crops are wasted along the chain from the farm to our kitchens and one reason is because they don’t meet shoppers’ expectations.

That’s a whole lot of perfectly good veggies — and nutrition — going to waste!

As part of an industry-led drive to reduce waste, we’ve partnered with Horticulture Innovation Australia to work with growers to turn imperfect-looking vegetables into nutrient-rich snacks and supplements. We’re investigating how plant-based nutrients, or phytonutrients, can be drawn from carrots, broccoli and other vegetables.

This project isn’t just about helping out farmers who don’t want to see their produce go to waste, it’s about getting Australians to eat more vegetables, because we just don’t eat enough. We hope to turn under-utilised produce — such as ‘ugly’ veggies that are not to specification — into high-value, super-high-nutrient ingredients and products.

As part of the project, we’ll investigate the use of separation, extraction and stabilisation technologies to create products that can be sold as powders, concentrates or vegetable-dense snacks for children.

Chief Research Scientist Dr Mary Ann Augustin says the project has significant potential. “We are investigating ways vegetables lost in the food supply can be processed and presented in a consumer-friendly manner because it has huge health benefits,” she said. Vegetable fermentation is also a significant area of focus as it’s a great natural way of delivering the good bacteria through food.

Long distance relationships are hard

Veggie growers have said that processing factories need to be more accessible as many producers cannot justify the expense of freighting unused produce long distances.

We are also looking at setting up processing hubs in key growing regions to make it easier for growers to process their under-utilised produce and create high value, nutrient-dense products.

At the same time as utilising wasted vegetables and providing returns to farmers, we’ll also be encouraging employment and the development of new industries

We do heaps of work to make food healthier, safer and more sustainable. Find out more about our projects.

 

This project has been funded by grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation, Horticulture Innovation Australia, using vegetable levies and funds from the Australian Government, with co-investment from CSIRO.