It turns out that ugly produce isn't really that ugly.

Imperfect Produce is a San Francisco-based food delivery company that sources what it calls "ugly" fruits and vegetables from farms and delivers them directly to customers in a box. Inspired by community-supported agriculture programs, which popularized the idea of delivering a box of mixed produce, Imperfect Produce takes the idea one step further to focus on the 20 percent of fruits and vegetables that are deemed too blemished to sell at traditional grocery stores. The company also sells produce that would be considered surplus food, but the company notes it is not taking away from the extra fresh fruits and vegetables that food banks recover and distribute to food pantries.

The service is available in the Bay Area and Southern California, as well as Seattle, Milwaukee, Chicago, Indianapolis, San Antonio and Portland, Ore., and it officially launched in Austin earlier this month.

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Unlike the dozen or so Central Texas CSA programs that sell boxes of seasonal produce sourced from local farms, Imperfect Produce sells produce grown mostly in California and other places around the U.S., as well as in Mexico and other countries. And the produce I received in a sample box recently was typical of the kinds of pears, grapefruit, potatoes, onions, celery, tomatoes and cabbage I might get at the grocery store — which is to say, it was all in good condition. The carrots were much wider than any I've seen in a store, but that was the only item that looked different than what you'd find in a supermarket.

Most customers order a biweekly shipment that costs between $12 and $18, depending on the specific produce in the shipment. There's a flat $5 delivery fee and lots of customization options. You can select organic or conventional produce, and you can also order extra or swap out certain kinds of produce.

Because the company is buying food that otherwise wouldn't be sold, Imperfect Produce estimates that it can sell the produce for 30 to 50 percent less than what customers would pay in the grocery store. That claim seemed to be true based on the quantity and mixture of produce I received in the sample box. When you add in the delivery fee, however, those savings dwindle.

To promote the launch, Lick Honest Ice Creams is selling a spiced sweet potato pie flavor using sweet potatoes from Imperfect Produce through Nov. 23.

Imperfect Produce currently delivers to Central Austin ZIP codes but will be expanding in coming weeks. You can find the various boxes and delivery options at imperfectproduce.com.

Roasted Root Vegetable Couscous Salad

In my Imperfect Produce box, I got a handful of assorted root vegetables that I instantly knew I wanted to roast and put in a pasta or couscous salad. You can use any mixture of root vegetables you'd like here, including potatoes or sweet potatoes. Leave them unpeeled, if you prefer. I seasoned them with an herb mixture from Ana's Foods, the local salsa company, and several good pinches of salt. For crunch, I added a handful of the tortilla strips that you can buy as a salad topping, but you could also use toasted nuts.

— Addie Broyles

1 1/2 cups dried pearl couscous

1 3/4 cups vegetable or chicken broth

1 beet, peeled and chopped

1 rutabaga, peeled and chopped

1 onion, peeled and chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling on the salad when mixed

Your favorite herbs or spice mix

Salt and pepper, to taste

Squeeze of lemon juice

Tortilla strips (optional)

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Cook the pearl couscous in the broth according to the package directions. (I cooked mine in an Instant Pot on manual pressure for 4 minutes, but you could also bring the liquid to a simmer, cover and cook for about 10 minutes.) Drain and rinse the couscous, and set aside.

Place the chopped vegetables and garlic on a foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with herbs, salt and pepper, and stir on the baking sheet to combine. Roast for 15 minutes, stir and then roast for another 10 minutes or until the vegetables have softened and started to caramelize at the edges.

Mix together the cooled couscous with the roasted vegetables. Drizzle with a little more olive oil, add lemon juice, and season to taste. Add tortilla strips if you want added texture. Serve at room temperature. Serves 8.

— Addie Broyles