Remember those quieter times, when the highlight of a Sunday TV schedule would be a humourous* selection of misshapen brassicas and root vegetables vaguely resembling – in a certain light and to a certain schoolboy mind – dangley body parts?
I worried – even at an age when a dog farting was absolutely the funniest thing in the world – about the people growing such penile specimens. Did they do it on purpose? Was there some kind of special seed? Maybe a funny shaped tube mirroring something normally kept well holstered inside the trouser?
I worry no more. Because after exercising scavenging rights in the field adjacent to our house and unearthing the remains of the vegetables beds, it has become absolutely clear that nature has a wicked sense of humour.
Firstly the humble spud. Now grown on an industrial process unrecognisable to even a post war farming generation, they’re planted in dense rows, sprayed with all sorts of shit**, everything above ground killed with sulphuric acid, and then harvested with a machine first recorded during the Spanish Inquisition.
Only not all of them. It’s uneconomical to hand pick the stragglers. Well it is for the farmer, far less of an issue to a family hurdling the fence in the hunt for a season of free chips. Armed with nothing more advanced than a wheelbarrow and a furtive expression, we’ve recycled enough to make me wonder if “potatobix” has a future as a breakfast cereal.
No idea what they are. “Potato” I hear you say? Ah well you’ve not plumbed the fascinating depths of tuber identification oncethe Internet is brought into play. Really there is no finer family fun that holding a humble muddy spud to the light while pointing excitedly at the screen: “It’s that one, I’m sure of it, mottled edges, responds well to squidging, looks as if it may have been secreted by a sick bear… yes it’s definitely ‘Farmer’s delight-the muddy bugger‘”
The carrots however are something else. Everything we grew above the surface of the beds has been nibbled/shit on/carried off into the night by an insect population which turns up with cutlery.Â What is left has taken the most amazing shapes from the chronically deformed to the point-and-laugh.
It’s great to see my own kids have taken on the mantle of indicating that an orange vegetable with a point at the end may very well be a spitter for a willy. Makes me proud.
Still they’re free and they taste pretty good***, and one day I’ll feel strong enough to tackle the difficult potato Random dug out that has the size/weight/general shape of the dog’s head. Send that one into Esther and she’d not know where to put herself.
I’d almost welcome a reboot of the That’s Life franchise, were it not for “Gardener’s World” being a worthy successor.Â Ashamed as I am of admitting it, I could not tear myself away from Friday’s gem of an episode where lots of retired folks were terribly serious on the topic of “Exhibition Vegetables”. I might have to have a go – there is at least one carrot the judges would find hard to ignore.
* Only, not very.
** Chicken shit generally. Ask me how I know.
*** The Veg not the kids, but I like the way you’re thinking.