Six tonnes worth of “slightly wonky” kūmara at risk of going to waste were rescued from Dargaville and delivered to customers of a fresh fruit and vegetable subscription service recently.
Northlanders will also be pleased to learn that Wonky Box has just recently expanded its operations and now deliver locally, so they too can enjoy some wonky produce.
The fruit and vege delivery box service aims to reduce food waste by rescuing slightly imperfect, “wonky” fruit and vegetables from local growers, while simultaneously providing them with an extra revenue stream. And with the per-kilo price of kūmara skyrocketing to anywhere between $10.99 to $14 from previous years’ lows of just $2-5 in our local supermarkets, Wonky’s customers seemed understandably happy about receiving the sweet potatoes in their latest subscription boxes.
Racquela Valache posted to Wonky’s social media page: “hoping for some on friday [sic], yeah, not had a kumara in ages.”
Juanita Cranston said, “I will be thrilled to have more kumara. I made amazing kumara fries with the last ones.”
Farmers in the Kaipara region, where the kūmara were rescued, have previously said that due to heavy rain hitting the region in the past 12 months, many plants had just simply died, causing a huge decline in supply and a resulting rise in cost.
Wonky Box co-founder Angus Simms said it was unusual to get such a premium product under current circumstances.
“With this year’s kūmara being so scarce, it’s forced retailers and buyers of premium-grade products to ‘loosen’ their specifications. However, in certain circumstances such as our recent rescue haul, there were limited options for the grower. Sometimes growers are forced to plough [produce] back in, send to processors or even send it out for pig food.
“We rescued kūmara from Dargaville because it had a high level of scurf, which appeared as slight blemishes or markings on its skin.
“They can be rubbed off or peeled and in no way does it affect the flesh of the kūmara. Certain retailers will have standards in place that allow only a certain percentage of markings and in this case, the produce had a fair amount. We also found an opportunity to include some jumbo-sized kūmara, which are perfect for our large boxes and families who can make the most of the kūmara across a few meals.”
As well as wonky kūmara from Dargaville, in recent weeks Wonky Box has also rescued a variety of other “too wonky” goodies such as cucumber from Pukekohe; leeks from Manawatū; garlic from Hawke’s Bay; broccoli from Levin; valencia oranges from Gisborne; and tomatoes from Mokai, just outside of Taupō.
Simms said savings made when purchasing the box can vary from week to week.
“We cannot always compete with the supermarkets, their model allows them to adjust very quickly to supply and demand in produce. What we can guarantee is a minimum amount of product in each box that is both fair and affordable. It’s the easiest way to get your weekly dose of fruit and veg and by far the easiest way to budget around produce in the household.”
Since its establishment in 2021, Wonky Box has rescued more than 100,000kg of produce which would have otherwise gone to waste, while simultaneously providing an extra revenue stream for growers.
Customers of Wonky can expect to receive alternating staples such as onion, potatoes and carrots, along with a seasonal variety of what farmers need to offload.