Vegetable Myth and Folklore
Vegetable Tales and Folklore
Many vegetables are surrounded by a long and colorful history of symbolic meaning and mythical tales. artichokes, tomatoes, onions, and cabbage are found around the world, woven into religious tales, and ancient folklore.
"Vegetables are the food of the earth; fruit seems more the food of the heavens. ~Sepal Felicivant"
If we are from Mother Nature herself, food is valuable, not only because it is capable of bringing us mouthwatering nourishment, but most importantly because they impart upon us the lasting wonder and importance of nature's beauty and magic.
After all the trouble you go to, you get about as much actual "food" out of eating an artichoke as you would from licking 30 or 40 postage stamps. ~Miss Piggy
The Artichokes earliest cultivation was thought to have occurred in the Mediterranean.
A Greek myth evokes the lovely story that the first artichoke was a woman of surpassing beauty named Cynara with whom Zeus was enamored. Zeus decided to make her a goddess but Cynara so missed her home that she would sneak back to earth from Mount Olympus to visit her family. This infuriated Zeus, who exacted a rather awful retribution by turning her into the first artichoke.
"May the leaves of your cabbage be free of worms". ~ Irish Blessing
The Greeks cabbage creation story is interesting. They long knew that cabbages keep grape vines from growing, so the story goes that Dionysus and his followers, the Bacchae traveled to a city whose ruler did not like their rowdy ways so had them all arrested. Dionysus used magic to cause the ruler to go mad--so much so that he mistook his son for a grapevine and killed him. When he realized what he had done, his tears fell to the ground and from each, a cabbage sprang.
Another Greek story is of Diogenes, who wandered the world looking for one honest man--wholly sustained on cabbages as his food. He never found the honest man, but the cabbages kept him alive until 90!
"Life is like an onion. You peel it off one layer at a time; And sometimes you weep." -Carl Sandburg, American poet
Egyptian mummies set out for the afterlife with a stock of onions carefully wrapped in bandages, looking like another little mummy. Ancient Egyptian leaders took an oath of office with their right hand on an onion. In ancient Egypt, the onion symbolized eternity because of its circle-within-a-circle structure. Paintings of onions appear on the inner walls of the pyramids and in the tombs of both the Old Kingdom and the New Kingdom.
The Romans ate onions regularly and carried them on journeys to their provinces in England and Germany. They believed the onion would cure vision problems, induce sleep, and heal mouth sores, dog bites, toothaches, dysentery and lumbago.
During the Middle Ages onions were worth so much that they were used to pay rent and were given as wedding gifts.
The onion was an ancient symbol of eternity because of the concentric circles that it contains. For this reason, Russian and other orthodox churches are designed with onion domes, a bulb-shaped dome with a pointy top.
Turkish legend has it that when Satan was cast out of heaven, garlic sprouted where he placed his left foot, an onion where he placed his right foot.
Countless folk remedies ascribe curative powers to onions: An onion under the pillow is thought to fight off insomnia; and chewing a raw onion sterilizes the mouth and wards off colds and sore throat. During World War II, Russian soldiers applied onions to battle wounds as an antiseptic.
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"I think that if ever a mortal heard the voice of God it would be in a garden at the cool of the day. "
~F. Frankfort Moore, A Garden of Peace
"A world without tomatoes is like a string quartet without violins." - Laurie Colwin
The origins of the Tomato trace back to the early Aztecs around 700 A.D; therefore it is believed that the tomato is native to the Americas.
It was not until around the 16th century that Europeans were introduced to this fruit when the early explorers set sail to discover new lands. Throughout Southern Europe, the tomato was quickly accepted into the kitchen, yet as it moved north, more resistance was apparent. The British, for example, admired the tomato for its beauty, but believe that it was poisonous, as its appearance was similar to that of the poisonous wolf peach.