Outlaw Carrots


The European Union just overturned regulations that will allow fruits and vegetables that aren’t technically picture-perfect, to be sold alongside their more attractive counterparts. But the laws are still place until next July. I had no idea there was such a directive in effect, and I’ve been innocently part of a conspiracy, participating in, and abetting, illegal behavior.

According to EU directives, things like carrots must be “..not forked, free from secondary roots.” Since I found that out, I’ve been much more careful about what I bring home. When I picked these out at the market, my carrots didn’t seems to have any of those kinds of hideous deformations (imagine that…forked roots!…ick!), but when I unpacked my haul, I noticed that the specimen above found its way into my market basket. Accidentally, of course.

I also learned that it’s illegal to sell a cauliflower that’s less than 11cm in diameter. Thank goodness I found out about these laws before it was too late; who knew what an outlaw I was, shopping at the market, skirting laws and wreaking havoc in my wake.


(And I won’t even tell you about the international incident I almost caused this morning by snapping a picture of some persimmons that were for sale. That’s a whole nother story.)

I’m just hoping later this afternoon there isn’t a knock on my door. I did end up buying six persimmons that were riddled with some unsightly blemishes, and a slice of pumpkin that was cut from a larger one that looked very, very suspect.

And I’m afraid of looking too closely through my bunch of radishes. Who knows what kind of contraband is lurking in there?


  • i like the shape of the carrot in the middle. it seems rebellious!
    some of the fruits and veg in melbourne’s victoria market are really awful looking, i wonder why they are on sale.

  • maybe we should grow carrots and other root vegetables in molds to make sure they are all the same….unbelievable….

  • Clearly we will need some program now to boost the self-esteem of those vegetables that don’t make the cut. Meanwhile, be careful out there — seems the market can be a treacherous place!

  • A number of years ago Agnes Varda had a film out called Glaneurs et la glaneuse, about people who gleaned food. And I remember a scene about potatoes that were not good enough for selling because they were not pretty enough, shaped correctly, or had bumps and thumps! I loved the film and thought this was very funny as I would go to the organic market and buy fruit and vegetables that were not very pretty, shaped correctly, or had bumps and thumps for a whole lot of money! I like those carrots.

  • How funny. If only people knew how hard it was to grow those perfectly straight carrots. I think the curved and twisted ones are much more interesting.

    Thanks for the info on Italian vs. Middle Eastern chickpea flour. From the photos I saw, I saw pretty sure they were different. Can’t wait for you to come to the U.S. again and bring me some of the real stuff. (BTW, SLC has a great Sur la Table and Williams Sonoma both, it’s the ice cream and chocolate capital of the universe – consumption wise at least – and I have a great sofa bed!)

  • Quick. Eat the “evidence.” LMAO!

  • You Rebel..

  • ..nay. you Maverick.

    It’s so gratifying to see you’ve been aiding and abetting the rebels and outcasts of the vegetable world.

  • I have to ask… why are disformed carrots illegal?

  • Unnatural! Only in the Marais…

  • I always root for the underdog. I’d be buying the funny looking produce just because I felt sorry for it and would worry that no one else would buy it. Me and Charlie Brown I guess. Maybe they should charge less for the ugly stuff. (And organic is always ugly!)

  • Jill: Oddly, today there was a story about this on CNN and a pear packer in England (there’s a joke in there somewhere, but I can’t think of it now….) was saying that the new ruling wasn’t such a great idea, because most people always choose the best-looking pieces of fruit and leaves the funny-looking ones behind. Unfortunately I think that may be true for a certain segment, but like you, I always buy anything goofy looking. No matter how illicit it makes me feel!

    craig: Oh…I don’t know. I’m sure you can find equally unusual things online, no matter where you live…

  • but I *like* the weirdo carrots and radishes! I like bringing them home, staring at them, wondering how they came to be and then devouring them. They even TASTE better, methinks.

  • I guess these renegades would have a pretty hefty bounty on their heads, if they moved from my fridge to yours.

  • Once I found a pair of carrots that had completely twisted around each other at the San Francisco farmers market. They were like a pair of carrot lovers. I had to buy them!

  • david said > ” I always buy anything illicit looking. No matter how goofy it makes me feel! ”

    Oh la la :) !

  • Naturally, Le Resistance Vegetal has been forming and while there are a few members underground, sympathy for the movement is building and one brave cotillion has presented themselves en force to represent for the cause:


  • I should have added..I’m glad that all shapes and sizes of vegetables reach our farmers mkt because I can usually negotiate a better price for the misfits. The farmers probably win too, I’m sure they make more money at the mkt than they would by disposing of them or selling them wholesale for soup processing or such.

  • Too funny! I wonder where all the ugly veggies go? Is there a secret society of ugly vegetable market goers?

    I guess I now know why pictures of European fruit markets are always so gorgeous.

  • I like the weird ones, too. Especially when they resemble little root people.

    I like to make them clothes and act out little stories.

  • What a great post David a good laugh as usual thanks! It did remind me of an article I had read about square melons from Japan http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/1390088.stm so I suppose that some people do really want perfectly shaped edibles!!

  • I was going to mention the Agnès Varda documentary about gleaning, but I realized Nancy already beat me to it. You should really see it, if you haven’t already (it’s very good). It’s a downright shame (ethically and ecologically) that (im)perfectly good food is going to waste for asthetic reasons. It’s silly they won’t sell a potato or cauliflower because it is a little too big or small. Or shaped like a heart.

  • Charlotte: There was a report I saw a few years ago on a news program about yellow bananas and they said something along the lines of 60-75% of the ones harvested aren’t sold, but tossed away, since they had blemishes and imperfections, and people wouldn’t buy them. Like some of the other commenters, I specifically buy fruit that’s wacky looking. Little do they realize that they could probably charge more for them!

  • Pretty soon we’ll have a thriving black market for soup vegs!

  • Those carrots are stunning.

    I guess even fruits and veggies have to cut a “bella figura”. The pressure.

  • The posting, as usual, is full of sly humor, and the comments, too. I love Jill’s comment in particular: did you notice she said (unintentionally??) that she always ROOTS for the underdog . . .

    tee hee

  • for the commenter itc there are not great pictures along with this article, but if you google square watermelon you will find plenty.


  • The odd-shaped vegetables might have some use in the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra:


    Anyway, I’d rather have misshapen produce than the rotten fruit the vendor always sneaks into the bag if you’re not a regular customer.

  • Thank goodness I don’t live in Europe. I got 3lbs of carrots from my winter CSA this weekend and my 5 year old picked almost exclusively forked carrots. I even got a forked fingerling. I hope the French Canadians aren’t in league with the EU and will come calling to remove contraband produce.

  • Hello David

    I live in Massachusetts, a state that still has “blue laws”, but yet the the state that was also “first” in the nation to legalize “gay civil unions”. The idea of commenting on “forked” carrots or bananas with blemishes is just way too much of a temptation to get myself into trouble, so suffice it to say that I’ll just leave this one alone!


  • Some things can leave a person just plainly speechless. Thank god it doesn’t affect you that way.
    If 60-75% of bananas look “odd”, doesn’t it mean this is the “normal” way they should look like? And if the % is that high won’t people get used to seeing it?
    This is so ridiculous.
    But then again, in a culture where all of us are supposed to “perfect” it is kind of expected… sadly.

  • What’s up with the French (and European) assault on agriculture? To have outlawed malformed vegetables is weird. More recently, have you noticed the attacks on wine? Seems odd that the French would be leading that charge.

  • I much prefer the strange-looking veggies, too. (Love that center carrot, by the way!) They have character. I’ve bought cojoined cukes, double-headed carrots and one positively pornographic eggplant. In each case, I got a cheaper price for the uglier piece!

  • David,

    You know what these carrots remind me of?

    That wonderful simple carrot salad you posted about a little while back, with the sexy porno of Romain eating it with his fingers: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/archives/2008/07/carottes_rapee.html)

    Just how did you get that perfectly thin grate on those carrots, anyway? I tried to make that salad, and it failed miserably – twice. So tragic! Mine were either too fine (think: carrot-raisin slaw mush), or far too course.

    What kind of tool did you use on your fabulous, bright, ever-so-tempting simple salad? ‘Cause now I just got have that salad, thank you very much!


    ~ Paula
    (of Ambrosia Quest)

  • Paula: That’s where these carrots are destined, btw! The grater that Romain uses, which a lot of French people have, is a metal Moulinex, which stands on 3 legs. I don’t think they’re available in the US, but I linked to a similar Moulinex in the comments of that post.

    Steve: Much of the blame, I think, goes to the EU; they’re trying to standardize everything, sometimes with an overemphasis on hygiene. But I think the new wine rules are a result of our leader in France.

    And the French love rules! Athough there’s one thing they love better—breaking them!

  • David,

    Thank you, David! But alas, the Moulinex you linked to is now sold out. See how popular you are?!

    At least I now I have a good lead to go on. Meanwhile, I will dream about your satisfying salad, and keep working on it.

    Happy munching!!

    ~ Paula
    (from Ambrosia Quest)

  • Here, in Brazil, the “perfect” fruit (those of the right colour, shape and size with no blemishes) are exported to the US and to Europe, and whatever is left behind is sold for local consumption. I don’t generally think of myself as being naive, but when I arrived here, a few months ago, the “quality” of the fruit shocked me. Since then, it’s been an uphill struggle trying to change my UK-instilled perception that ugly fruit is rotten fruit.

  • Don’t you remember the famous EU directive and tabloid flap in the UK about “straight bananas”?

    No longer. The EU ag commissioner’s got your back and is living on the edge. She writes on her blog: “I also look forward very much to buying some wonky fruit in my corner shop!”


  • There was an outcry here in Norway when the law first came into effect, since it effects produce here even though Norway isn’t in the EU. Before the ruling I used to find some of the best tasting, funniest looking carrots ever, and after they looked better but didn’t taste nearly as good. It the same thing as tomatoes that are bred for color and shape, where the odd colored lumpy ones are the varieties that taste so much better. I’m like you, i search out the funny looking ones, and the little tiny apples etc.

  • Oh my gosh, how funny!

  • I couldn’t believe this when I read it in the NYTimes – selling a misshapen veggie or fruit is illegal! Just because they’re misshapen does not mean they aren’t delicious!

  • “Style versus Substance” – excerpt from To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar.

    So what will the EU do about the alien inside bell peppers? HAHA.