Why I hate fall veggies — no matter what they’re called

I picked up a squash from the local farmers’ market. Not the fruit of the hare, in honor of that namby-pamby fad but an edible half-sized squash. “Cactus lettuce,” one sales lady announced. “Most people think it’s peas,” another insisted.

And it’s true, cactus lettuce is a bit like peas in the pod. I’m guessing that was half the reason I picked up this seedling. That and that it’s supposed to be available at the farmers’ market on Friday nights at the Blue Ridge Marketplace near Arlington, Virginia, maybe even on the Sunday morning after Mass at St. Stephens Episcopal Church in Old Town.

It was fun to see it walking on my feet in a field of conifers, bougainvillea, and corn stalks, planted so proudly with seedlings of my dreams. I took a photo of this squash plant — at about the size of a smartphone phone — and posted it to Instagram. My (happy) soulful jokesy friends “liked” it (I mean sure enough they would come looking at my post again) and wondered about which “plants” I liked and why. My monologue went something like:

“Oh, I love this delicious veggie! It’s called a winter squash. I get one at the farmers’ market!”

“What? What the hell is that?”

“I’m afraid it’s called winter squash. Cactus plants are not a true plant; they are a cute, blooming, strangler vine,” I explained in a hurry. “What’s your hobby?”

“‘I’m ‘eating man’!” they began to wonder. And I laughed.

“Yes,” I said, surprised at their ease with this topsy-turvy question about health and veggies. “My hobby is living on a hedge. Or inside my hedges.”

And they laughed and thanked me. “But you only got a half-squash, right?” they began to ask.


“Here,” I said as I grabbed a kit of their good friends, which was also a half-squash but way bigger than mine. “Add water, and the half-squash will expand — and it’s also a great plant for killing bugs and mice.”

And they laughed even more. But I came away doubting, perhaps for the first time, that mumbling to myself inside my hedge (tamed by the Native American culture, according to a 2001 article in the Encyclopedia of America) really is my hobby and my innermost secret.

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