When the moon is in the cauliflower, and cucumbers align with Swiss chard, then peas will guide the planet and kale will steer the stars. This is the dawning of the Age of Asparagus, Age of Asparagus…” – Choque Grifo.

“I like Brussels sprouts. I just don’t like to eat them.”
– Norwood’s Skylar Currie, at age 4.

It’s a done deal. The commercial tomato harvest is history and, with noted organic exception, most are lemons. Why can’t a society that can put a man on Saturn raise a decent tomato crop?
It wasn’t always like this. While undergoing childhood in Southern Ohio I remember trophy tomatoes popping out of my father’s well tended garden like juicy missiles the size of small basketballs. That was then. This is now.
Today tomatoes look better than ever thanks to polish, dyes and the assorted miracles of consumer science. The fruit feels all right when squeezed. The vegetable is even pleasant to the olfactory senses. But wait. What’s that rancid after taste that lingers? It reminds one of a washed up celebrity, trying to make a buck pushing a once-in-a-lifetime insurance policies on daytime TV.
It’s an election year. What does the eleventh hour political candidate really think about the rise and fall of tomatoes? What will he do about the dilemma if elected? Will the sad demise of other fruits and vegetables be undressed within his rooted agenda?
Failed fruits and vanquished vegetables have haunted the inner reaches of the human psyche since the days of the mildly carnivorous Sumerians, the first society to sing the praises of vegetables and fruits in the diet.
Here’s the point: Taking advantage of this newly elevated stature, the little devils of leaf, stem, cluster and/or seed have not only learned to manipulate us at the dinner table but have wasted no time invading our very conversation, or vernacular by tip toeing along that groveling grammatical ledge known as slang. Along with conspirators in the fruit kingdom, common garden vegetables have pushed their way into our daily speech patterns and threaten to upset the turnip cart with respect to the very words that we utter.
Getting back to our initial complaint, the word tomato has not only fallen from grace in a linguistic sense but has also taken a beating in the arena of sexual innuendo with phrases like “She’s quite a tomato” or even “Look at the melons on that tomato”. This kind of speech reeks of hot house sexism but is prevalent in the lower order of life forms.
What about the term lemon used in response to an unfruitful automobile purchase? Who is to blame for leaving the jargon barn door open? Is the saying sour grapes descriptive enough? Did you know that British sailors are often called limeys due to their habit of eating limes to keep away the scurvy?
The Golden Apples of the Hesperides, picked by Atlas according to Greek mythology, were actually oranges. Johnny Appleseed never held a regular job for more than a week or two. Time flies like the wind. Fruit flies like bananas. Get it?
Even our bodies are pulled into the fray with such sayings as head of lettuce, artichoke hearts, prune face or, as Billy Shakespeare put it in King Lear “Her earlobes resembled a cool, green avocado ripe for the enchanted harvest moon.”
It doesn’t stop here. Whether fruits and/or vegetables are part of an innocent hors d’ oeuvre tray or a simulated subversive stew the idiomatic intrusion is relentless. While we agonize over social issues such as same sex marriages and gang warfare, vegetables are eating away at our semantic infrastructure forcing themselves on the spoken language, lending credence that we are, at least in an oral sense, surely a society of mongrels.
Let’s take the diet of children for instance. While everyone realizes the benefits of vegetables, how can we expect kids to embrace the consumption of entities named eggplant or squash? It’s no surprise cheeseburgers and fries have gained prominence.
Has anyone, with the possible exception of the Jolly Green Giant, ever really had a meaningful relationship with such virtual unknowns as kohlrabi, kale and endive? They know who you are. Parsnips do too.
Did you ever see someone with bright red hair? They’re called carrot tops by some segments of the population. Who created that analogy? Is this edible coup d’ etat carried out while we humans just vegetate? Sound silly? Don’t forget the classic film “The Tomato Who Ate Brooklyn”. Feed me.
Planter/philosopher, Tom Parker once said, “Never order anything in a vegetarian restaurant that ordinarily would have meat in it.” Sure, maybe Tom’s a little bitter but one can pretty much bet he has had a run-in or two with vegetable vigilantes or lingered with legume lexicons at least.
Terms such as “Oh beans!”, cauliflower ear, corny and no small potatoes aren’t helping either. Knees up, Mother Brown! These kindly plants were once an integral part of our Victory Gardens and now they are employed to designate a negative within the very soul of our language.
Take the assorted dialects that have come together to create the American version of English. How many of you have conversed with the proverbial Italian vender? What is the popular calypso tune “Yes, We Have No Bananas” driving at? Who is responsible for the sudden emergence of sprouts? It’s enough to cause the Earl of Sandwich to roll over in his grave.
This is no overnight crisis. Back in 1903 my great grandfather was so busy planting pataetas that he opted to drop the “O” from the family surname since, as he put it, “I was working up to 16 hours per day and was just too busy to spend time with it.”
Did this make my ancestor a bad apple or was he really the only toiler in the cabbage patch?
In closing we urge the reader that, when washing off his favorite fruit or vegetable this summer, he take care to recognize a bad seed or a perishable that is rotten to the core. While these unassuming fruits and vegetables may look innocent enough, their agenda is clear to many of us. Without the proper cultivation things could get very ugly just inches under the top soil.
NEXT WEEK: Long-winded threats from the dairy product sector.

(Editor’s note: Due to a long standing policy we have been forced to include fruits as a separate category in this essay. It’s some kind of union thing down here at the paper.)

Kevin Haley, a failed botanist, lives in Colona where he hunts for edible milkweed pods and publishes the San Juan Horseshoe. He thinks gooseberries can fly.

Filed Under: Hard News

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Comments are closed.