Never judge a book by its cover, or a fruit by its peel

WE'VE all been told since we were knee-high to a grasshopper that we should never judge a book by its cover.

Not all of us succeed and, while I do my best to stay true to this saying as much as possible, I'll be the first to admit that I've been guilty from time to time of making snap judgments about people due to, for instance, the way they dress or talk.

Sometimes those snap judgments turn out to be spot on, but sometimes they're not.

I was thinking of that old adage just recently, after hearing a number of farmers express their frustrations that the supermarkets just aren't giving them any flexibility on fruit quality this year, despite many of them having suffered huge losses and crop trauma as a result of storms, rain and floods this year.

Much of the fruit is fine, of course - it's just that the skin has a few blemishes and it's deceiving to the eye.

Some recent news reports on this subject said farmers had been dumping tons of fruit of all kinds because the supermarkets weren't interested, and while they could get some money for their seconds fruit the market for it wasn't that big that they could truly recoup their costs.

A spokesman for Choice came out at one stage and said it was up to consumers to be flexible on blemished fruit and get educated, because otherwise supermarkets would continue to reject anything but the best-looking stuff in the belief their customers wouldn't buy it.

But given most consumers buy their fruit and veg from supermarkets, how are they supposed to "get educated" without being given the opportunity - and even encouraged - to try it out?

I'm sure most people would be willing to give it a give it a go if a marketing campaign were to be introduced encouraging them to try what's on the inside, and perhaps if the produce was slightly cheaper as an incentive. And yes, I realise this means growers may get a slightly lower price than normal at the farm gate, but it's better than having to dump huge quantities of fruit you've paid big dollars to produce, only to get nothing back for it at all.

When I'm at the supermarket, I can be as fussy as the next person when picking out the fruit and veg to put in the trolley.

But if seconds fruit is all I have to choose from, I'm also very comfortable eating that. In fact, we tend to eat a fair bit of it.

At home, most of the avocados we eat from the farm are seconds, the logic being there's no point in us eating our way through something for free that could be earning money. Similarly, we have no problem accepting other growers' seconds when we swap produce or use it as a means for saying thanks for a favour.

Every summer, one of our friends usually spoils us with big bags of lychees from her farm and we wouldn't dream of them being anything but her seconds, or even sometimes her thirds. I tend to bring them into work because I have so many in the fridge at home, and they don't last for long among my colleagues, I can tell you.

Because they are absolutely delicious. You peel away the skin and it's gone.

All you're left with is what's inside - which is, after all, what really counts - and any thoughts of what the skin may have looked like are forgotten.

So if we can learn to not judge books by their covers, I'm sure we can learn to not judge fruit by its skin. But we've got to be given the chance to do it.

And that starts with the supermarket buyers, who seem to pay lip service to supporting our local growers but have trouble following through at the crunch.

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