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An unusually-shaped vegetable is a vegetable or fruit that has grown into an unusual shape not in line with the normal body plan. While some examples are just oddly-shaped, others are heralded for their amusing appearance, often representing a body part such as the buttocks. Pareidolia can be common in vegetables, with some people reporting the appearance of religious imagery.

A giant vegetable is one that has grown to an unusually large size, usually by design. Most of these maintain the proportions of the vegetable but are just larger in size.

Causes

Vegetables most usually grow into an unusual shape due to environmental conditions. Damage to one part of the vegetable can cause the growth to slow in that area while the rest grows at the normal rate. When a root vegetable is growing and the tip is damaged it can sometimes split, forming multiple roots attached at one point. If a plant is in the primordium (embryonic development) stage damage to the growing vegetable can cause more extreme mutations.

The unusual shape can be forced upon the vegetable. In Japanmarker, farmers of the Zentsujimarker region found a way to grow cubic watermelons by growing the fruits in glass boxes and letting them naturally assume the shape of the receptacle. The square shape supposedly makes the melons easier to stack and store, but the square watermelons are often more than double the price of normal ones. Using similar techniques growers have also created more complex shapes of watermelon, including dice, pyramids, and faces.

Some giant vegetables have been purposely cultivated to be of an enormous size, with artificial selection being used to create large hybrids. Serious growers (those that enter competitions and aim for world records) trade seeds through clubs or over the Internet.

If carrots are grown in soil which has been manured that year, some of the carrots are strange shapes because the young carrot plant's roots go off in odd directions drawn by irregular pockets of manured soil.

Competitions

It is common in some countries to celebrate the diversity of vegetable shapes, with particularly unusual items being entered into competitions. Many of these are judged by the ugliness of the vegetable. Some organisations run contests in which gardeners enter the largest vegetables that they have grown, with pumpkins being particular favourites.

Popular culture

Oversized vegetables have featured prominently across many media. Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach takes this to the extreme with the title character sailing inside the gigantic peach across the Atlantic Oceanmarker. Giant vegetable competitions feature in a number of films and television series, such as Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit in which it is central to the plot. That's Life!, a popular British television show, frequently featured unusually-shaped vegetables that were sent in or photographed by viewers.

The BBC comedy television programme Blackadder contains several jokes relating to the character Baldrick and his obsession with odd shaped turnips. The most notable example being in the episode Beer, in which Baldrick discovers a turnip shaped exactly like a "thingie", forming several jokes throughout the episode.

Unusually-shaped vegetables feature in a Terry Pratchett novel "The Truth", where a man constantly submitting them to a newspaper for publication is a minor but frequent annoyance to the paper's editor.

Ben Elton's novel This Other Eden is set in a future where most aspects of life are controlled to conformity, meaning the loss of 'amusingly shaped vegetables', much to the protagonist's annoyance.

See also



References

  1. Plant Answers. " Why are some of my vegetables growing into such odd and unusual shapes?". Accessed 5 June 2007.
  2. BBC News. 15 June 2001. " Square fruit stuns Japanese shoppers". Accessed 5 June 2007.
  3. PingMag. 12 July 2007. " Funny Shaped Japanese Watermelons". Accessed 13 July 2007.
  4. Munts, Pat. SpokesmanReview. " Growing giants takes TLC". Accessed 5 June 2007.
  5. Cornwall County Council. 16 September 2005. " Giant Vegetable Competition and Show at Kehelland Horticultural Centre". Accessed 5 June 2007.
  6. Cheung, Maxine. The Toronto Observer. " Stouffville grower squashes the competition at the Royal Winter Fair". Accessed 5 June 2007.


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