Grow-tesque: Greenhouse on Whole Foods roof rebrands damaged lettuce as ‘ugly greens’ • Brooklyn Paper

Grow-tesque: Greenhouse on Whole Foods roof rebrands damaged lettuce as ‘ugly greens’

Rearing its ugly head of lettuce: Gotham Greens’ Julie McMahon shows off the company’s proudly unattractive produce.
Photo by Jordan Rathkopf


A company that grows lettuce on the roof of the Gowanus Whole Foods is selling its bruised and hole-ridden produce at a discount downstairs under the name Ugly Greens. The leaves may not be pretty, but they taste just as good as the picture-perfect stuff, a company rep claims.

“They are perfectly fresh, perfectly nutritious local greens with some slight cosmetic imperfections,” said Julie McMahon, the digital marketing coordinator for urban greenhouse farmers Gotham Greens. “It’s the same taste and it’s delicious.”

The cosmetically challenged crops are also available at the Park Slope Food Co-op and a few other markets around the borough, as first reported by Edible Brooklyn. Each retailer prices the blighted veggies itself, but typically charge 40 percent less than regular lettuce, McMahon said.

At Whole Foods, a large bag of Ugly Greens costs $2.99, while a smaller container of the company’s standard stuff costs $3.99.

Gotham Greens — which also has greenhouses in Greenpoint and Queens — used to compost produce marred by pests or harvesting and packaging, but started turning the cast-offs into a brand of their own in summer in a bid to cut down on waste, McMahon said.

“We decided to package them up and sell them at discount to tackle issues of food waste while reducing our own waste,” she said.

The company isn’t alone in pushing produce that was once considered too unsightly for supermarket shelves, McMahon said — markets around the country have added misfit vegetables to their stock in recent years to cash in on the colossal amount of perfectly-edible produce that ends up in landfill, and even Wal-Mart is now getting in on the action, introducing not-so-rosy apples at some stores in Florida in July.

“This is part of a movement that already exists and we see it as us joining this space where there are all these great people raising awareness of bringing ugly greens into the spotlight,” McMahon said.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Fields of greens: Gotham Greens cultivates a lush field of lettuce on the roof of the Whole Foods Market in Gowanus.
Photo by Jordan Rathkopf

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