Blemishes and scabs increase the antioxidants in some fruits.When people see a tomato that's sprouting five miniature tomatoes from its stem, or a carrot that looks like the foot of Sasquatch, it seems like a Little Shop of Horrors situation. But NPR says at least some scientific evidence suggests that weird-looking fruits and vegetables will not hurt you, but that they could actually deliver greater nutritional value than the prettier stuff.
Here's what some of the more recent findings discovered:
One study showed that an apple covered in scab has more healthy, antioxidant phenolic compounds, called phenylpropanoids, than a scab-free apple peel. Another study showed that apple leaves infected with scab have 10 to 20 percent more phenolic compounds. Similar research has found high levels of resveratrol in grape leaves infected with fungi or simply exposed to the stress of ultraviolet light. A study of Japanese knotweed, a plant with a long tradition of use in Chinese and Japanese herbal medicine, found that infection with common fungi boosted its resveratrol content as well.
As NPR notes, it's already been pretty well established that organic produce contains more antioxidants. It can't rely on pesticides like conventional produce can, so it ends up doing most of the dirty work. Research suggests organics end up with 20 to 40 percent more antioxidants than regular stuff and that those tend to contain a lot of compounds typically produced when plants are attacked by pests (flavonoids, phenolic acids, carotenoids, etc.).
Blemishes and gashes are sort of like kids playing in the dirt, or taking vaccines — it may make that piece of fruit a serious survivor. And it could even taste better: One apple grower says she's found she can make a more delicious hard cider using scarred Parma apples because they have 2 to 5 percent more sugar than undamaged apples from the same tree.