It was the green pepper I got at the grocery store this week that started me thinking great thoughts about giant vegetables. It was the size of an acorn squash, at least six inches long and four or five inches in diameter. When peppers are priced "each" rather than "per lb." you naturally go for the bigger ones, and at 99 cents this one was a real bargain.
Then there were the embarrassingly proportioned cucumbers we got from a friend's garden. They weren't yellow and overripe, they were just big. I've been told that, in Turkey, for one man to call another a "cucumber" is an insult he'd better be prepared to back up with his fists. I would think that being compared to these cucumbers would be a compliment.
The same person who reported the insulting capabilities of the cucumber also talked about Black Sea cabbages so huge that no one bought a whole one; you'd just tell the grocer how many kilos you wanted, and he'd whack off a section. And, of course, it isn't necessary to even mention how out of control zucchini can get if they're left in the garden a little too long.
But when it comes to oversized vegetables, the champion of champions has to be the giant pumpkin. A pumpkin festival was held downtown last weekend, along with a kids' costume parade, music, and food booths presumably specializing in pumpkin pie and muffins. The featured attraction was the giant pumpkin contest.
Six or seven contestants squatted along the street, looking like aging sumo wrestlers who had succumbed to gravity. Their bulging, sagging mounds of excess flesh were certainly big, if not exactly beautiful. Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater's wife would have had ample room to live in one, but decorating might have presented a challenge.
I suppose the fun of growing giant pumpkins lies in the challenge of producing one just a little bigger than last year's—or than the other guy's. Otherwise, it seems like a lot of trouble just to end up with something that is seriously ugly and doesn't even get made into pies.
Another featured event at the festival was the pumpkin catapult toss. Not surprisingly, the contestants were engineering students from South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. The purpose was to see which team could build a device capable of hurling a pumpkin the longest distance. It wasn't clear who was responsible for cleaning up the mess afterward.
They didn't use giant pumpkins, of course. Too bad; the idea offers some exciting possibilities. Just imagine the explosive impact of a thousand-pound pumpkin hitting the ground. Onlookers would need to wear raincoats to protect themselves from the spatter. Small children and pets would need to be kept at a safe distance, say a couple of blocks away. The Great Pumpkin Splat. I'm sure it would be a smashing success.
Aftera reading your column about veggies, and especially about the pumpkin contest, I wondered just what the connection is between pumpkins and Halloween. Seems it dates back to Celtic Ireland when a man named Jack carved crosses on a turnip to keep the Devil away. Didn’t have pumpkins in Ireland them days. So we call them Jack O’Lanterns. See?