We harvest Monday mornings to ensure freshness and delivery before the weekend.

Zava Ranch

Organic Fruit Delivered from California Orchard

Healing food grown without chemicals or animal by-products

The Benefits of Eating Ugly Organic Fruit

Why is Organic Fruit Ugly?

Healthy Soil for Organic Farms - Organic Fruit Looks Ugly?It is true. Organic fruit is often ugly. It may look small, weirdly-shaped, less shiny, not smooth, with duller colors, spots, bumps, and occasionally even a few worms.

That’s how fruit grows in nature.

Sometimes organic fruit does look amazingly beautiful, but the appearance and size of organic fruit is seasonal and depends on various whims of the weather.

Especially organic fruit seems ugly when compared to chemically induced, artificially ripened, presorted to only large sizes and perfect shape, washed and waxed fruit in the supermarket.

Every once in a while we have a customer complain that Zava Ranch organic fruit is ugly. We take it as a compliment.

Sadly, these customers have been so conditioned by chemically-induced agriculture that they no longer know what “real” fruit looks like.

So, how do natural sustainable farming practices make organic fruit ugly?

At Zava Ranch, we go beyond organic, we use natural agriculture.

  • We use NO fertilizers (even those classified as organic) – that means the fruit may be smaller in size.
  • We use NO pesticides, including no fungicides, no herbicides and no insecticides, (even those classified as organic) – that means the fruit may have some spots or cosmetic defects.
  • We don’t wash, wax, sort by size, artificially ripen or enhance the fruit in any way – that means the fruit may look less shiny and less colorful.
  • We don’t treat with anything to extend shelf life – that means the fruit is more sensitive to rough handling and storage temperatures during shipment.

Zava Ranch organic fruit goes from the tree and into the box, at your door in 2-3 Business Days (we ship only early in the week to ensure that the fruit does not sit on a truck over the weekend).

The appearance might vary but the fruit is consistently nutritious and delicious.

Paradoxically, it is precisely when you open your Zava Ranch box and see that ugly organic fruit, you know that it was truly natural, ethically and sustainably grown!

To achieve that supermarket-worthy perfect-looking fruit farmers often have to rely on chemical products. It should be a red flag to consumer if they see fruit that is “too perfect.” This is really the case of too good to be true.

Does Buying Ugly Organic Fruit Benefit the Environment?

One could argue that we could easily sort the fruit by size and shape and that would make our fruit more desirable with more customers.

Yes, we could do that, but that goes against our values of sustainability and not wasting resources that went into growing and harvesting perfectly nutritious and delicious organic fruit. We would also be throwing away perfectly good highly valuable food source. In addition, we would be perpetuating the myth that fruit needs to look the way that chemically-induced agriculture is conditioning us to expect.

Sadly, that huge waste of perfectly good fruit that might look “ugly” is exactly what happens in the packing houses, grocery stores, and supermarkets (which we are intentionally bypassing in order to shorten the path directly to you).

Because of the assumption that customers only want large, shiny, and colorful, a lot of ugly organic fruit with even most minor cosmetic defects or shape imperfection usually goes into the dumpster.

It is estimated than 1 billion tons of food go to waste around the world each year. In developing countries, most of that loss stems from lack of infrastructure, storage and refrigeration; in North America and many industrialized countries, a huge portion is thrown away despite being perfectly good to eat because “nobody wants to buy ugly-looking food”.

Fortunately there is a growing movement to educate the customers on the benefits of buying and eating ugly organic fruit instead of leaving it in the field or dumping it into overflowing municipal landfills.

Is Eating Ugly Organic Fruit Healthier?

Some studies suggest that ugly organic fruit may pack an unexpected nutritional punch — courtesy of its own battles to survive.

“Ugly fruits actually bear the visible scars of their successful battles — dimpled or scarred where they fought off a biting or gnawing insect or surface infection.” 1

One study showed that an apple covered in scab has more healthy, antioxidant phenolic compounds, called phenylpropanoids, than a scab-free apple peel.

Another study showed that apple leaves infected with scab have 10 to 20 percent more phenolic compounds.

Similar research has found high levels of resveratrol in grape leaves infected with fungi or simply exposed to the stress of ultraviolet light.

A study of Japanese knotweed, a plant with a long tradition of use in Chinese and Japanese herbal medicine, found that infection with common fungi boosted its resveratrol content as well. 1

Scientists hypothesize that the visible defects that make organic fruit ugly are a result of the plant fighting off environmental insults — relying on its antioxidant defenses to do so, which boosts nutrition, and in turn helps humans activate our own potent protective mechanisms. 

In short, the benefits of buying and eating ugly organic fruit are many.

There is a direct correlation to less waste which benefits the environment by conserving resources and improving yields. There is a less direct but strong correlation to health benefits that are passed on to us by fruit that is chemically-unaltered and had to mobilize all its internal resources and mechanisms to survive.

What are the disadvantages of buying ugly organic fruit? The only disadvantage that we are aware of is that it doesn’t look “perfect.” 

Our health and the health of the planet could benefit by shifting our focus from appearance to the flavor and quality of produce, neither of which is sacrificed when an item is a little misshapen or sized differently. 2


Join the Conversation:

What are your thoughts, experiences, and challenges with growing or sourcing Organic Fruit? Do you think organic fruit looks ugly?

We would love to hear from you.

  1. Neimark, Jill. “Beneath an Ugly Outside, Marred Fruit May Pack More Nutrition.” NPR, NPR, 26 Apr. 2016, https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/04/26/475739569/beneath-an-ugly-outside-marred-fruit-may-pack-more-nutrition.[][]
  2. Kateman, Brian. “The Time Is Ripe for Ugly Fruits and Vegetables.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 2 Mar. 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/briankateman/2020/03/02/the-time-is-ripe-for-ugly-fruits-and-vegetables/?sh=3d792d554a85.[]