I travel around in the car quite a lot during the day and the radio is always tuned to Radio 4. I’ve found that I love gardener’s question time – even though I know so little about gardening, I find it fascinating.
The other day I had quite a long journey and found that a programme was looking at the subject of farming, particularly vegetable growing. Farmers were bemoaning the fact that the wet summer had spoilt their crops and that instead of the perfect veg we’re used to, a lot of their fields were producing knobbly carrots and other veg. I remember this phenomenon from our vegetable plot in our former house – you never knew what shapes you were going to dig up, especially the carrots. You could guarantee that not one of them would be straight. Some of them were quite amusing, a bit like the ones pictured.
Some supermarkets aren’t impressed with this year’s offering. Sainsbury’s has announced that there is a shortage of vegetables and that therefore the prices will be higher. They’re very selective and only really want the beautiful, straight carrots, the pick of the crop, which leaves the farmer with all their knobbly, unattractive veg. This is causing them a great deal of stress – it’s their livelihood, after all.
However, not all supermarkets have the same attitude. I was impressed by a spokesman for Morrison’s who proudly announced that they take the whole crop whatever it’s like – the whole field is bought for a fixed price, so the farmers aren’t left wondering if their crop is good enough.
So what do they do with these less than perfect specimens? They do the sensible thing and chop them up and put them in things like salads, soups, mixed veg and ready meals where it doesn’t matter what shape they are. They even sell them in their economy range, but people seem to be a bit put off, suspicious that being economy they might not be as good, that they are second rate. In fact these knobbly veg taste just as good as ‘perfect’ veg and are just as good for us. I blame the EU for raising our expectations, all those regulations about bananas not being too curved… I never did understand that.
I suppose it’s the same with us in a way. I’m glad Sainsbury’s doesn’t run heaven, it would be very empty I suspect. Fortunately God doesn’t only choose those who are ‘perfect’ on the outside, the whole crop is taken, beautiful or not. These days many people seem to admire the way others look, the models, the film stars, those who are beautiful and are famous for no particular reason except that the label glamorous is attached to them. We have seen the rise of the plastic surgeon who keep the rich and famous, and others, looking young and beautiful. Perhaps this gives us a skewed impression of what is good. What about those of us who recognise that we’re a bit knobbly on the outside, what about the inner person that is revealed when the outer skin is removed. The real us, who do our best and struggle on regardless.
I like Morrison’s approach: everything is used, everything is worth something whatever it looks like. The Paralympians proved that despite physical and in some cases mental impairment they could overcome their so called ‘imperfections’ and let their lights shine for the world to see. Their determination, their courage, their inspiration. There is a place for everyone in God’s harvest, he takes us all and works with us, given half a chance, to help us discover the beauty within ourselves, for that is where it is truly found. As God dwells with us.
I’m going to buy knobbly carrots from time to time just to remind myself that it’s not what something looks like that’s important, it’s what’s inside that counts.