Our story for the week is called The Ugly Vegetable by Grace Lin. It focuses on a family that grows Chinese vegetables in their garden rather than flowers like the rest of their neighbors. The little girl in the story wonders why her families garden is so different from everyone else’s and calls the vegetables they grow ugly.
This story prompted great discussion on diversity and how just because something is looks different doesn’t make it ugly or bad. There was a great lesson at the end when all the neighbors come to the house where the vegetables are cooked into a soup. What the little girl first thought as ugly, turned into something that brought together all of her neighbors for a great meal.
I saw this story as a great jumping off point to share with students about what is being done with “ugly” vegetables in France, and now many other places. Recognizing the great food waste that is generated by throwing out ugly or imperfect vegetables and fruits, France decided to do something about this major problem. They decided to market these ugly fruit and veggies and put them on the shelves of grocery stores. To prove to customers they were just as good as beautiful fruits and veggies they made soups, juices and other foods with them for people to try. Once people realized looks didn’t affect the flavor or quality of the food they were quick to purchase them; the 30% discount on uglies didn’t hurt either.
Students watched a video sharing this information and we talked at length about the benefits of eating uglies. Students pointed out you get more of the fruit of vegetable, they taste the same, they cost less and we end up throwing away less food. Students made connections to our story of the week and how at first the girl thought the veggies her family grew were ugly, but by the end of the story she saw how they were just as good as vegetables that others knew about.
As a wrap up activity students answered a short writing prompt explaining why ugly vegetables are just as good as vegetables they already know and love.
What an unexpected global connection in reading this week! How great that we were able to tie in so many different connections into one lesson. We touched on geography, diversity, global problems and how to brainstorm to solve a problem.
Have you tried any ugly fruits or vegetables? Does your local grocery store sell them? I’d love to hear your thoughts!