In search of a ‘national vegetable’

Posted on July 6, 2016

So it looks as if the UK will definitely be leaving the EU ….sometime. This historic moment has prompted me think about what our ‘national vegetable’ might be in these turbulent times. And being as the times are so turbulent, what the constituent national vegetables of the nations in the British Isles might be, as we go our separate ways. Lets start with the easy one; Wales. They already have a national vegetable, the leek. A good choice, so easy to grow, tasty, versatile and nutritious. But officially.. no other nation has such a vegetable. So here goes with some suggestions. Scotland. The national dish, haggis, is normally eaten with ‘neeps and tatties’. Far from being turnips, ‘neeps’ are actually  swedes. Understandably popular on Burns Night which falls in January when there isn’t a lot else around – but hardly a vegetable to set the heart racing. How about a variation on the  national flower, the thistle? The cardoon perhaps? or the artichoke? Looks much better on the menu of a swish Edinburgh eatery.  Ireland? The obvious suggestion is the potato and indeed there a is even a ‘Tayto’ theme park in the Republic and the internet swirls with  articles of the  ‘Thirteen reasons why the potato is the Irish national vegetable’ – variety. But the potato is a staple, and redolent with the suffering  of the Famine of the 1840’s. Hardly something to celebrate. How about  the garden pea? There are some good Irish-sounding varieties like the Danny O’Rourke. And it is popular in Ireland. For the traditionalist perhaps caragheen, gathered from the seashore and popular in seafood restaurants might  command support? The cabbage too  has its supporters. After all colcannon or ‘champ’  made with cabbage and potato and often eaten with sausages, is a classic Irish dish, north and south. Would the North have its own? Hmmm…  Didn’t someone once say ‘oranges are not the only vegetable’, or something like that. Lets move on. England.  So many vegetables, so many contenders.  From the root vegetable world,  lets hear it for the carrot, and the parsnip. Such classics of English cuisine. For the more advanced palate the asparagus perhaps?  A reminder of Spring,  ready from St George’s Day. But  perhaps that is its problem; too seasonal.  Of course the English regions are asserting themselves these days too. So how about the ‘national’ vegetable of Yorkshire. Rhubarb obviously. Yorkshire, home of the ‘rhubarb triangle’. Most people think it is  fruit, but it isn’t. Isle of Wight? Not independent yet, but who knows. Home of England’s only garlic festival, it has to be garlic.  But who wears the crown of being England’s truly national vegetable? Something we have as part of the traditional Christmas dinner perhaps. Maybe the roast potato, but the potato is too closely associated with Ireland to really work;  parsnip is definitely a contender, but what else graces the Christmas platter? Why the brussels sprout of course. Step forward…. the English national vegetable.  Eat your heart out Nigel Farage, those perfidious Europeans  have triumphed again.

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