Every specimen in a bag of carrots could be used as a model for an illustration of Mr. McGregor’s garden in “Peter Rabbit.”
Every Brussels sprout is uniformly tight and lies shoulder to shoulder in its package with nearly identical brethen.
Every butternut squash is an evenly tan, symmetrical hour-glass.
Every cauliflower or broccoli head is nearly exact in its circumference — not too small, not too big.
Not so in the Schoonover garden.
Individual fruits and vegetables come in just about every size and shape imaginable — like snowflakes.
Some are absolutely gorgeous — so much so that we pause to admire them before plopping them in the basket or putting them under the knife.
Others range from average to decidedly not so pretty.
But unless they’re diseased or bug infested, we don’t mind. Taste is far more important than appearance in our book.
And, occasionally, deformities are related to nutritional imbalances, so we make note to correct them in the future.
But how far we’ve strayed from Madison Avenue vegetative expectations hit home this week.
When our children, Zach and Hannah, stopped by on Election Night, we regaled them with tales of the late fall harvest: How sweet the cruciferous veggies had grown after the frost; how the Swiss chard was still producing; how the parsnips and rutabaga were unfazed by the chilly nights.
Then Kevin swung open the fridge to show off some of our carrots. He popped open the drawer and grabbed the nearest one, proudly holding it up.
“Look at this carrot!” he exclaimed. “We grew that.”
Hannah was first to react, throwing her head back, overcome with laughter. Zach’s hearty chortle followed quickly behind.
Kevin looked at me. I looked at him.
Hannah and Zach’s laughter filling our ears.
Then we looked at the carrot through their eyes.
OK, so it was a bit untraditional in its shape. Not exactly long and lithe.
More like squat and stout.
But it was bright, solid orange without many hairy root follicles — which are stimulated, we’ve learned, by soil that’s too rich.
Besides, we knew from eating its fellows that it would be oh, so sweet and alive with carrot flavor.
I may have a hard time getting carrot seed to germinate, but once they’re growing, we’ve been satisfied with our results.
I looked back at Kevin and he shrugged before setting our trophy back in the fridge.
From now on, we’ll only show off the picture-perfect specimens.