When I was very small, I remember my mom taking my sister and I grocery shopping with her.
We would enter the Jay C store when it was in the Jackson Park Shopping Center, and upon first entering the store, we would walk past brightly colored piles of vegetables and fruits.
I remember getting so excited when the "rain" sometimes would start as we walked by — gentle mists of water to ensure that the produce was kept as fresh as possible while awaiting purchase. Heads of lettuce looked almost plastic as the leaves were completely without blemish, the droplets of water beading down the freshly waxed outside.
Trying to tempt us into eating healthy, she’d purchase a bunch of bananas in the the produce section, knowing full well that my sister and I would rather fill up on all of the day-glo cheese on chips in a bag of Doritos.
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We’d then proceed throughout the store, Mom picking up cans of soup, pretzels, TV dinners and then, finally, milk and eggs.
Mom was very particular about eggs, opening a carton and removing each egg from its little paper or styrofoam cubby, checking each one for some sort of blemish that would indicate that carton to be rejected and another placed upon the inspection block for the perusal to begin again.
Fast forward to today and I laugh at what is acceptable for my use when collecting eggs from the henhouse or the harvest from the small garden that I maintain. Sometimes, there are random bumps on the shells of the eggs, a tiny hairline crack, pigment that isn’t quite right, etc. On the recently grown kale, I’ll notice tiny holes from some other creature that has decided to share my bounty.
As a whole, we have been programmed in the stores to see the most perfect product, no blemishes with an almost too-perfect-to-be-real quality. Anything less that that and we have in our minds that we will get sick and for good reason. The amount of food that is produced by our commercial growers is astronomical and statisticwise raises the chances of getting something harmful.
On the small farm, however, when collecting eggs, sometimes, the hen gets a little too excited about a hand under her and puts a dent in the shell as she moves her feet in the nest box or one egg knocks into another in the collection basket and puts a small hairline crack in the shell.
In the small garden, the tiny holes that mar the kale leaves simply mean there is less harvest for me.
These eggs or produce would not be OK for the market. You always want to put your best product forward, and there are a lot of regulations about what is acceptable for selling, but they’re perfect for home use.
My rule of thumb with less-than-perfect eggs is that as long as the outside shell isn’t soiled and the membrane inside the shell is intact, it’s suitable for eating. After all, once the egg is used for food, the shell will be broken anyway. I call these eggs my "scratch and dents," and when one of these beauties comes along, it means that it will not be going to market and I’ll get to enjoy it without any guilt that I could have sold it.
The "holey" kale that I recently harvested made a wonderful lunch salad with a few carrots tossed in for color and added a great raspberry balsamic dressing. Apparently, a lot of other creatures like to enjoy the leaves, as well, and as long as the leaves are not obviously diseased and well washed, they are perfect for munching.
I’ve come a long way from my previous idea that if it was blemished, I absolutely could not eat it. Sorry, Mom. Looks like I’ll be filling an egg carton with a few "scratch and dents" to enjoy for breakfast one weekend morning. Until next time.
Stephanie Strothmann owns Purple Shamrock Farm LLC in rural Seymour. Read her blog at whattheclucker.blogspot.com. Send comments to [email protected].