Jan Etherington asks why God created such an akward vegetable as the butternut squash
IN the beginning, God created the heaven and earth – and I like to think He did it in March. It makes sense. It’s a good month for planting things.
I was pondering all this, while walking around the garden centre, trying to decide what crops to grow, in my vegetable garden. There are a number of incongruous statements in that previous sentence. ‘Crops’ implies quantity and A Plan, while ‘Vegetable Garden’ conjures up walled acreage, with paths, raised beds and a wheelbarrow-toting groundsman.
My vegetable garden is the size of a modest dining table. Two people can, barely, fit into it – and if one bends over, hoeing, the other will be pitched into the firepit. But all it contains is my failed attempt at asparagus. ‘Don’t touch it for two years!’ a gardening chum advised. It’s been five years now and it still resembles a bit of fossilised, chewed string.
Anyway, back at the Bible. On the third day, God created fruit and vegetables. No, I didn’t make that up. In Genesis it says, “God said ‘Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed and the fruit tree yielding fruit.’ And God saw that it was good.” Oh really? All of it? How closely did he look at the butternut squash? I can see why he created it, because it tastes lovely but why didn’t He make a better job of the design? It requires biceps of steel just to peel it.
Lots of fruit and veg are easypeasy – the cucumber, the banana and the apple (although Eve may not agree) have minimum preparation time and maximum enjoyment. Some, like peas, have pods - but shelling them is surprisingly therapeutic, so that’s OK. But it’s no surprise that the most popular use for the rhinoceros-hide pumpkin is to scoop it out and put a candle inside, for Hallowe’en. And even that takes the best part of a morning and you need a nap, afterwards. I did once grow a butternut squash. Just the one. I carried it, triumphantly, into the kitchen and then looked at it for two days. I knew I had to be in peak physical fitness to tackle it, so I went for a run. Then I rolled up my sleeves and got out my biggest and heaviest knife. It was so labour intensive, I had to go to the physio the following week. I know what you’re going to say – you can buy all these awkward veggies ready prepared - peeled, cubed, de-pithed. But that seems so lazy and ‘pre-packaged’.
It’s not just veg that have design flaws. There’s some awkward fruit as well. The first is the mango. What a swizz! You peel it, try to cut it in half and ‘thunk!’ – you hit the endocarp (tough core). I love mango but it could have been better thought out. I don’t mean to be disrespectful to Him but that’s what happens if you rush it. Trying to create everything in seven days means you miss the fine details and the mango almost wins the prize as Most Annoying Fruit. But the winner of Most Annoying Fruit ever is . . . the pomegranate. First, you have to put on a pinny, because when you cut it, it will squirt. Big time.
Secondly, you have to navigate your way through yards of pith to get to the seeds. It’s a messy business. As I discovered, one morning, when I walked into the kitchen and saw what looked like the opening scene of a Quentin Tarantino movie. All the work surfaces were spattered blood red and our young English Setter, Jagger, appeared to be bleeding from his mouth. However, he was bouncing around, doing cartwheels in his usual way, so I looked closer. Yes, he’d stolen a pomegranate from the fruit bowl. And I must say, he’d done a much better job of digging out the seeds than I could.
I’m leaving a butternut squash on the worktop tonight. See how that goes . . .
‘But how closely did he look at the butternut squash? I can see why he created it, because it tastes lovely but why didn’t He make a better job of the design?’
Above: One of these requires an enormous amount of physical effort, the other is a game of squash