One joy of the kitchen garden is growing funny-looking vegetables. The vegetables displayed at the grocery store meet a kind of regular perfection belied in the home garden where the gardener sees first hand what whimsical, unedited nature provides. Or where the gardener can grow the new and different vegetables bred by seedsmen seemingly weary of the plain old, ordinary, if time-honored, varieties. Until you have a garden, and dig up the first potato that looks exactly like a teddy-bear, you would never know what a variety of shapes and sizes vegetables left to their own devices will invent.

Potatoes and carrots were the first I noticed that came in irregular. Potatoes out of the ground range, in a good year, from whopping to miniature. It is fun to ask little kids if they think they can eat ten potatoes only to have them shake their heads seriously until you show them a handful of marble sized potatoes. Then there are the potatoes that come out of the ground looking like a submarine or as if they had three legs and a head. When I dig my potatoes I usually find enough for a few messes of oven-roasted whole little potatoes, not much bigger than two or three inches in diameter, scrubbed and drizzled with olive oil, and a few cloves of garlic sprinkled amongst them, then roasted at 425 degrees for 40 minutes or so. The big ones I store in the cellar.

Carrots, at least in our stony soil, are the most variable. One we pulled recently looks like five carrots decided to join up at the top and came out of the ground pretending they were one. We always have a carrot or two that has two crossed legs and reminds me of a long trip in the car with too few rest stops. Then there is the one that looks like some kind of fertility fetish that you’d hate for the kids to see.