Friday, April 24, 2009

Russian Banana Potatoes

I found these Russian banana potatoes a few months ago at the Happy Boy Farms stand at the Noe Valley farmers' market and decided to take them home to test the resemblance in my fruit basket. (Happy Boy is the coolest stand around, as confirmed by their cartoon vegetable signs. They compete for my affection with Tomatero Organic Growers, even though they don't even know I exist. sigh.)

This is a case in which the vegetables themselves are pretty normal, but it's the humans who've gone a bit loopy. I'm talking about naming practices that bring us into the territory of surrealism. When things are named after other things, independent identities begin to dissolve, and it gets especially confusing when 1) the things don't exactly resemble each other and 2) you try to figure out which is meant to be the original and which the copy and why.

So does the wiener dog look like a hot dog or does the hot dog look like a dog dog? And then there's this banana potato that is also a type of fingerling potato, as in little finger. To recap: a potato that looks like a banana that looks like a finger. Whose finger, you ask? Well, that depends. If you're talking potatoes, I'm assuming it's a human finger. When you get into banana territory , those tiny sweet bananas are known as lady fingers, but there is also a more elongated kind called monkey fingers, and yet another kind named goldfinger. So could I say that someone has banana fingers or potato fingers or banana potato fingers? And are lady finger bananas supposed to look like the genteel fingers of ladies (though I find them a little too stubby to be genteel—the bananas, that is) or the delightful cookies known as lady fingers? Are fingers supposed to look tasty?

Of course, these potatoes could also be the punchline to some farmer's joke about what you get when you try to breed tropical fruit in Eastern Europe...

I can think of at least two other vegetables named after fruit (lemon cucumber, watermelon radish) but no fruit named after vegetables. I'm still thinking, but perhaps it's a sign that people are more familiar with fruit and are reassured when strange vegetables can be associated with a known piece of produce. Why are there no radish apples? Or rutabaga oranges? On the matter of linking produce to body parts, it does make the plant parts more recognizable, but I'm not sure how reassuring that naming practice is (i.e. the aforementioned "fingers," also blood oranges). Okay, I'll stop before we all go bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s.

8 comments:

Leif Hedendal said...

When a bumbling New Yorker is dumped by his activist girlfriend, he travels to a tiny Latin American nation and becomes involved in its latest rebellion.

kale daikon said...

Mm, I was hoping for more examples of fruit-named vegetables, or vice versa, but I'll take your expansion of the term "going bananas" into the land of fruit-formed governments. It's yet another quandary why more political structures haven't been vegetably appointed: a kale regime, the potato curtain, an endive plutocracy...

Nikolas said...

navel oranges and cherry tomatoes...

p.s. Tomatero will only break your heart, stick with Happy Boy.

kale daikon said...

Navels and oranges have been forever changed for me... I'll have to weigh in with Dirty Girl on the p.s.!

Nik said...

So in lieu of hitting the town, as they say, I spent a chunk of the evening engaging in some rousing research. Here are some recent findings:

-blood banana

-finger lime

-nipple fruit

-rabbiteye blueberry

-vegetable brain (or the ackee)

-bullock's heart


P.s. Just a little insider info, this weekend (or next) should see the return of basil, potatoes, and cherry tomatoes to a certain Noe Valley farm stand.

kale daikon said...

GROSS! (meaning: amazing). Your findings just elicited much excitement from me and Erin as we jointly read your comment. Bring your radish patch Saturday. We're comin' for ya.

Tomatero Farm said...

Hello! I have read your blog and rather enjoy it! I do know that you exist! Thank you for all your support; we are a small farm and really appreciate it.

kale daikon said...

Thanks, Tomatero! This makes me happy.

Also to Leif: I just now got the reference to Woody Allen's movie Bananas. Still need to see it...