First in Line for Seconds

Buying less-than-perfect produce is good for consumers and vendors

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By David Hammond

I've written about buying seconds before, but the opportunities at the Oak Park Farmers' Market are now so abundant, I'm going to make one last call for people to buy fruits and vegetables that others might feel are not up to their standards.

Last weekend, we bought about ten pounds of peaches for ten dollars, about one-third to one-quarter the going price. The reason the price was reduced is that some of the peaches were blemished, but as we plan to skin/vac-seal/freeze the fruit or use it immediately in a peach crumble, the exterior appearances of the fruit did not matter at all…except to the extent that we got a fantastic deal on these otherwise unwanted pieces of fruit.

With seconds, whether of peaches or tomatoes or any other soft fruit, you have to ask if the vendor has any. Usually, they do.

Buying seconds is good for consumers, because you can save some on the higher-than-average farmers' market pricing.

And buying seconds is also good for vendors who can sell more of their inventory and not just the pristine pieces.

This time of year, when there's so much coming in from fields all over the Midwest, I'm always first in line for seconds.


Reader Comments

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David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 25th, 2013 1:45 PM

Gleaners are a fascinating bunch, Dave, and I admire what they're doing. We throw away such a shocking amount of chow in our country, and they're trying their best to use as much of that thrown-away stuff as possible. I applaud that...and a lot of recovered food, I wouldn't hesitate to eat.

Jeff Schroeder from Oak Park  

Posted: August 25th, 2013 11:16 AM

It makes sense if the price is right. If more people did this, maybe they would lower their regular prices? (Not likely).

Dave Coulter  

Posted: August 25th, 2013 11:03 AM

Nice article David. Another way of saying "waste not, want not!" Your story also reminded me of this group that focuses on the practice of gleaning to help mitigate hunger:

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 24th, 2013 1:41 AM

"Uncle Johns" is a new one on me, apparently an old timey euphemism for "seconds," which is itself a euphemism for slightly bruised produce.

pln from Oak Park  

Posted: August 23rd, 2013 9:48 PM

I often wondered if vendors still did this. I remember my parents bringing home bushels of what they called "U.J.s" or "Uncle Johns" from Naple's Fruit Stand on North Av in Melrose Park. It was what folks used to refer to bruised fruit or vegetables that they were going to cut up and can anyway. I have no idea where the name "Uncle Johns" came from, though!

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 23rd, 2013 9:35 PM

I feared what you describe, Chris, but I thought it was better for the common good to release this top secret strategy for getting good stuff inexpensively and, not incidentally, helping farmers sell all their stuff.

Chris from Oak Park  

Posted: August 23rd, 2013 9:15 PM

Hush! Don't tell everyone my strategy. Now everyone will be doing it and they won't have the seconds I want when I show up. Demand will rise and the price will go up.

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