I thought having an allotment would make me immune from receiving vegetable gifts.
I have had to think again.
Innocent observations to my allotment neighbours, like ‘cracking courgettes you’ve got there’ or ‘sensational sweet peas’ have brought hope to their eyes.
‘Please take a few!’ or ‘Cut yourself a bunch!’ they plead. It is an unfeeling person who looks into those desperate faces and says no.
So to help out the couple who had been on holiday and come back to find their cabbages big enough to appear on roadmaps, I took delivery of a huge head of Savoy last week.
Dad and I were already buckling under the heft of supersized spuds dug from our own plot. One weighed in at nearly 2lb and Dad, who has taken to wearing 2 pairs of £1 reading specs one on top of the other, rather than forking out £200 at the opticians (and who can blame him), could hardly believe the evidence of his six eyes.
‘Now that’s a potato among potatoes!’ he said. ‘It’ll keep me going for a month.’
But back to our neighbours’ preposterously-sized produce. I struggled to carry it to the car. Perhaps it was already developing its own gravity system.
At home, it made Mr Mandy Sutter back away across the kitchen. ‘Oh, no, no, no,’ he said.
The table legs flinched under the weight of the Brobdingnagian brassica. ‘Well,’ I said coolly, ‘I’m away next week. I’m afraid it’s going to be your project.’
One of Mr MS’s friends was coming to stay in my absence. ‘It’s a good job Ade’s a vegetarian,’ I said. ‘And that he’s a gannet.’
We live in a terraced house that looks smaller out than in. Visitors often comment on how spacious our kitchen is. But, glancing at the gargantuan green on the kitchen table, the room suddenly seemed small.
I left for Northampton.
I phoned home mid-week. Mr MS and I managed to talk pleasantly for a while, but we both knew where the conversation was headed.
‘The thing is, we haven’t made much of a sortie on the Savoy yet,’ said Mr MS.
It was the same old story. Except that this time, thinking about that vast vegetable, I couldn’t help sympathising.
At primary school, I was once made to sit over a bowl of sago pudding for the entire dinner hour. As I stared at the dreaded substance, unable to imagine even putting it into my mouth, let alone swallowing it, it looked more like frogspawn every second. And it seemed to be multiplying in the bowl, a vast gelatinous alien life form that might suddenly overflow and spread over the tables and chairs until it had annihilated the entire school canteen, including me and all the dinner ladies. Let’s face it: food in large quantities just isn’t appetising (unless it’s salt and vinegar Kettle Chips).
‘Don’t turn your back on the cabbage,’ I muttered.
‘What?’ said Mr MS. ‘Look, we’ll try and break through the outer atmosphere tonight. I promise.’
When I returned home, he swore they had eaten three of its leaves. But the cabbage looked remarkably undiminished. Perhaps it was evolving, learning how to replenish itself from thin air.
No matter, though. There are very few vegetables that can survive a concerted attack of recipe Googling. Today I found a website that had 200 ideas, all involving cabbage.
To finally defeat this ginormous growth, I may have to try them all.