Linguistic Liberties & Pathetic Epithets

I bought some “baby leeks” at the weekend. Perhaps like you me you find the whole baby vegetable thing slightly suspect (you might even consider them a rip-off and not buy them at all). I don’t totally reject the concept. Young vegetables can be more tender and it’s not unreasonable of the grower to charge a bit more for them when he could otherwise have let them grow a lot bigger and obtained a much greater yield for the same outlay (plus the fact that they’re more fiddly to pick). It’s the way retailers promote them that I take issue with.

Take those leeks. I’ve seen baby leeks before that were so small and slender they could easily have been mistaken for spring onions. But these were decidedly adolescent – or at the very least pubescent – leeks.

Then there were so-called “baby bananas”. OK, compared with regular bananas they were suitably diminutive, but I’m quite certain, having seen them growing in Costa Rica and Zanzibar, that they’re actually a different cultivar from the common “Cavendish” banana and only grow to 3 or 4 inches when fully mature.

This linguistic imprecision is not just size. I also bought some rainbow chard which might more accurately be described as two-tone chard, or maybe tri-coloured chard if you allow for the green leaves as well as the red or yellow stems, but that hardly constitutes a spectrum, does it.

However, I couldn’t argue with the description “baby turnips”. They were minute. But I wasn’t tempted to buy any. A turnip is a turnip – unless you come from a region where a turnip is a swede and vice versa – and not particularly esculent.

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