When “Marrow” is Vegetarian, and a “Swede” is not a Person

When “Marrow” is Vegetarian, and a “Swede” is not a Person

September 16, 2013  Story and photo by Rev. Barbara Allen

Giant Vegetable Contests: Girl with Cabbage

Yanks and Brits don’t always speak the same language, or have the same meanings for common words, which can be puzzling and confusing.

For example a fruit like a large or giant zucchini with a deep green skin and whitish flesh, is called a “marrow” across the pond. We often call it a zucchini, but learn quickly that tiny “z fruits”, unwatched, rapidly grow to great size, and are called “marrow” in some north American areas.

The world record “Z” or marrow was 69.5 inches long, and weighed 65 pounds. But, it’s hard to keep up with new records being made, and old ones being broken. As with other squash and giant pumpkins, the larger the fruit, usually the tougher and less flavorful the meat.

The record pumpkin about a decade ago weighed 1,000 pounds.

The new record, from 2012 is a “Ton-kin”: a pumpkin weighing in at over 2,000 pounds.

(PROCEED WITH CAUTION: sometimes nutrients and minerals you wouldn’t want to eat are used to create these giants. Before proceeding to eat one, find out if it’s safe.)

Giant fruit and veggies may also include single bunches of celery that would fill a 50 lb. potato sack; huge cucumbers grown in women’s tights to prevent them from snapping under their own weight; yards long carrots grown in clean drainpipes full of vermiculite.

Getting some giant vegetables and fruit to a show or competition undamaged, takes military planning and care. In a game that’s mostly about weight, the loss of even a single leaf can mean the difference between winning and losing.

Shiny tomatoes, perfectly polished potatoes, colorfully beribboned onions – laid out with loving care are not as popular an attraction at some fairs as giant vegetables. Instead of carnival human freak shows these days we have monster vegetables. But the ugliest vegetables of all are giant, malformed “swedes” that look like large, alien, sci-fi creatures from another world, but in reality are extremely beneficial.

Rutabaga is the normal name in American for the root vegetable usually called, in Britain, a “swede” (or, in older English, a Swedish turnip) – This root vegetable is a member of the Brassica family. The names ‘rutabaga’ and ‘swede’ originate in Scandinavian language, where the plant was first recorded in 1620: “swede” because the country where it was first found (or bred) was Sweden, and rutabaga because it is the name by which it is known there.

The brassica family of vegetables, which includes broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower and brussels sprouts, is one of our most powerful weapons in warding off many common diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and hypertension. Interestingly, the rutabaga is a cross between a turnip and a cabbage!

Fiercely competitive growers will sometimes laugh together and share seeds, tips and even DVD’s. The importance of sportsmanship needs to be stressed. The ideal is something of a large chosen family of growers where folks will help one another and the competition is friendly.

Giant fruit and vegetables need lots of room. Giant pumpkins will often require about 600-800 sq. ft. of space; huge quantities of compost; lots of insight and ingenuity, and lots of water! Some growers even talk to their vegetables, and / or play soothing music to them, but won’t always admit it. Remember, in this contest it doesn’t matter if it’s ugly so long as it’s large enough to win an award!

Passion for cultivation often starts in grade school.

It’s hard work, year ‘round with no holidays. Growers are dependent upon the weather and some people have heated greenhouses and their own biology laboratories and test kits to measure pH in soil, check for unwanted micro-organisms, start seedlings, and more.

It’s a noble sport worth encouraging. Taking lessons from www.Findhorn.org small amounts of space could feed many, even in seemingly inhospitable areas. People can start gardening in childhood. It can be disabled friendly. Farmers are peaceful people around the world, and don’t usually start wars, or turn to violence to resolve differences.

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams and their wives weren’t just Presidents and First Families, they were also passionate gardeners! Their love of nature, plants, gardens and agriculture are an integral part of America and aligned with their political thought – both reflecting and influencing it.

Benjamin Franklin didn’t just sign the Declaration of Independence, fly kites in lightning storms, and romance ladies. He was the first to put plants at the heart of Americans struggle for liberty: “Agriculture is the only honest way a nation might acquire wealth.”

Philadelphia’s John Bartram, our nation’s first botanist propagated plants and seeds that grew in all of the founding fathers’ gardens. I wonder if he’s mentioned in any of our schools.

On Saturday, September 28th, Christianson’s Nursery in Mount Vernon gifts northwest Washington with a wondrous free day of live Old Time Cajun and Bluegrass music; a fascinating presentation about bats (flying mammals), free carnival games; toad races; and a great place to see prize vegetables grown here in our part of the country. There’s also a giant pumpkin contest, and this year, a giant cabbage contest open to all age groups. Bring your own picnic, or buy treats there. Tour acres of greenhouse treasures, and enjoy the day, rain or shine.

If you’ve grown a large cabbage or giant pumpkin, enter it for prizes. There’s no entry fee for cabbages, which will be weighed in starting at 9 a.m. at the nursery. Step back in time to a simpler America or England, the day has no fee, and there’s free parking besides.

See www.Christiansonsnursery.com for details on the days’ events, and a map of how to get there.