If you live in Maryland, D.C., northern Virginia, Philadelphia or South Jersey, there's a new produce subscription box to consider. But what sets Hungry Harvest apart from the other produce subscription boxes you're familiar with? It's filled with ugly produce — fruits and vegetables that may not look perfect but are perfectly good to eat. The box also includes other produce that is surplus from farms or vendors.

I decided to try this delivery service, and here's my rationale:

  • It helps reduce food waste. Many of these fruits and vegetables wouldn't make it to the grocery store shelves because they're misshapen or discolored — at least when compared to the pristine, shiny produce we're used to seeing in the store.
  • Having a box of produce that I didn't choose myself inspires me to get creative in the kitchen, perhaps eating some new fruits or vegetables or trying new recipes.
  • The price is reasonable for me: $15 for the mini harvest box that's full of fresh fruits and vegetables. Shipping for anything under $20 is subject to up to a $2.99 delivery free, which seems reasonable to me.

You can see my first delivery pictured above, along with an add-on, a package of FreshPaper, which I paid an additional $9.99 for (which brought me above $19.99 so I didn't pay any shipping costs).

Here's what was in my first Hungry Harvest delivery, and the explanation for why they were in the box:

  • 2 avocados (too small for regular grocery stores)
  • 2 ears of bi-color corn (overbought by vendors)
  • 1 large head of broccoli (overbought by vendors)
  • 2 golden delicious apples (overbought by vendors)
  • 1 very large bunch of kale (some discoloration — although I didn't think it was discolored at all)
  • 1 red onion (farmers had a large harvest)
  • 2 orange bell peppers (no explanation given)
  • 3 yellow squash (skin had some scarring on it)

The produce comes from mostly local sources during the East Coast growing season, which is late spring through late fall. The local farms the company works with are listed on the website. During the off-season, Hungry Harvest says on its website "we may expand our sourcing to suppliers who have networks of farms in warmer regions."

What I got inspired to cook

avocado toast with poached egg My toast didn't care that the avocado on it was too small to be sold in a grocery store. (Photo: Robin Shreeves)

The fruits and veggies in the box gave me a reason to try some new recipes. I know I'm late to the party on this dish, but I made avocado toast for the first time. Mashed up avocado, a poached egg, and a little salt and freshly grated Parmesan cheese tastes pretty good on top of whole grain toast. I'll have to add it to my quick, healthy breakfast option lineup.

chicken, kale, broccoli Both the kale and broccoli from Hungry Harvest ended up on the same dinner plate one night. (Photo: Robin Shreeves)

I used the kale in a lemon chicken dish that called for spinach. The dish cooked for a half hour in the oven, so I subbed out the spinach for the kale. The half hour gave the kale plenty of time to soften up. It worked well. I also served the broccoli on the side.

I'll be using the yellow squash and the orange bell pepper in the next day or two to make this Sautéed Summer Squash with Red Pepper and Onion recipe, switching out the red pepper for the orange one.

That's three new recipes in one week, all inspired by the produce in the Hungry Harvest Box.

You can customize the box

I bought the least expensive box, the mini harvest, but there are other options. A full harvest box, which is recommended for two to three people, costs $25. A super harvest box, recommended for 4-7 people, costs $35. There are options for fruit-only boxes or veggie-only boxes at various prices, too. And, there are options for all-organic produce that range from $15-$20 more than the non-organic produce boxes.

Hungry Harvest gives you the chance to opt out of up to five fruits and vegetables, too. They will sub out something else if your opt-out items are to be included in that week's harvest box.

Each week, you can include add-ons to the box, too. Fresh baked bread, specific produce items, jams, granolas and more are available for an additional fee, as well as the FreshPaper I mentioned earlier.

I've chosen every-other week delivery of the mini-box, but I've already had to halt delivery for April because of travel. There's no commitment with this delivery service. You can cancel your account, you can cancel any upcoming order, or you can halt delivery for a while whenever you want. I appreciate that, and if it wasn't the case, I would not have even given Hungry Harvest a try.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Ugly produce never looked so good
Hungry Harvest recovers ugly produce and delivers it to your doorstep for a reasonable price. You just have to figure out what to make with it.