The Family Vegetable

Today’s guest post comes from Jacque.  

Some families have distinguished, ancient crests with lots of regal history; other families have members who have accomplished great things which allows their relatives to bask in the glory of all that star-dust; and some families, like mine, have a very real and symbolic vegetable. It is a vegetable worthy of a family crest.

My maternal grandparents, bearing the last name of Hess, lived on a farm near Pipestone, MN where they raised eight children during the Great Depression. Grandma and Grandpa grew most of their own food to feed their large family. The vegetable garden was immense, even after the children left to start their own families and gardens. Each spring they planted a row of carrots and a row of kohlrabi for each of the eight children. The child was to seed the row, thin the seedlings, weed it, then harvest it, meaning he or she could eat the carrots and kohlrabi any time he or she wanted.

These eight children produced 39 grandchildren (I am number 20), Grandma and Grandpa continued the tradition of planting many rows of carrots and kohlrabi for the grandchildren. The grandchildren trained each other to love this veggie. During a summer visit to the farm when I was about 8 years old, my cousin Jean Marie,*** who was age 7 and who lived right there on the home farm, taught me about the joys of kohlrabi. She led me to the kitchen to swipe one of Grandma’s many salt shakers, then we sneaked out to the garden.

“Don’t let Grandma see us,” Jean Marie instructed as she yanked 2 kohlrabi out of the dirt, stripped the leaves from it and broke off the root. “Grandma will be mad if we leave the salt shaker out here. And we are NOT supposed to eat these!”

I took this seriously.  I did not want to be in trouble with Grandma.

Then Jean Marie headed for the row of peonies which were large enough to hide both of us. There she demonstrated how to peel the thing with her teeth, salt it, and eat it like an apple. It was a delicious secret treat, crisp, delicate and salty. I wanted another. I crawled behind the peonies to the nearest kohlrabi row where I imitated Jean Marie’s techniques of pulling, leaf-stripping and peeling.

Years later I told Grandma about this. She knew. Of course she knew. She knew all of us did this. That was why she planted them—to get us to eat vegetables. She knew they were sweeter if we thought they were stolen.Family Crest 1

When family reunions roll around, a cousin or two arrive with a bowl of home grown kohlrabi harvested the morning of the reunion, a half dozen paring knives for peeling, and salt shakers.   We snack on sliced, salted kohlrabi all day.

If I was to create a family crest it would include the family slogan, “One Mell of a Hess” and include a regal kohlrabi. Like so.

***Names have been changed to protect the family members who have not agreed to have their names included!

What would you include on your family crest?

80 thoughts on “The Family Vegetable”

  1. Morning all! Thanks for this Jacque… I love the image of you all stealing the salt shaker to run out to the garden!

    If I were going to design my own crest, I would have 4 quadrants. One would be dogs rampant on a field of purple, one would be a lily on yellow, one would be stack of books with a candlestick next to it also on yellow and the final would be the Young Adult on purple. Whole crest would have be to sprinkled with glitter.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. My family crest would be a lightbulb

    The only thing passed on was to figure it out

    Cousins and my family have little in common

    My own sibs have little in common

    Got an idea ? get to work!

    Dont have one? Think about it

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mike herboldt lived across the street in the house that looked like a barn
    It was older than all the 1957 suburban sprawl around it. Everybody else had a normal yard but herboldts had a double wide double deep with gardens all around. Tomatoes on the side raspberries out back, the made jam out of throes inedible choke cherries off that tree in the front yard. Mike taught me to eat tomatoes with a salt shaker out in the garden but his mom furnished the salt shaker
    They were the coldest least engaging people in the neighborhood but they sure had a good garden ant tomatoes never tasted better
    If I go to the farmers market in August to buy kohlrabi before bbc will someone else bring the salt shakers?

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    1. Me, me, me. I may still have kohlrabi, too. At our age, with “mature” teeth, paring knives and peeling is more reliable than the beloved peel with teeth method.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Cleo and I did this with turnips, exactly, but pretending to hide. We also dug up, washed, peeled and salted young potatoes. Same with carrots, minus the salt. Everyone took a pod of peas now and then. So you see, I love this post.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I grew up eating rhubarb with salt, tomatoes with sugar. But my family crest might have to include asparagus. As a child I had to be “bought” to eat it, as a grown-up I paid five times as much to eat it in a San Francisco restaurant. When I moved to this farm, it was the first thing I planted and I am still harvesting from those original plants each spring. Perhaps my crest could include rhubarb and asparagus, their leaves compliment each other. And the rhubarb plants I harvest from came from my grandfather.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. When my dad was a barefoot kid in the 1920s he kept a salt shaker in his back pocket so he could enjoy the tomatoes that he’d pick while playing. Snatching tomatoes like that might provoke a scene now, but the world of his childhood had so many tomatoes and such lusty gardens that people didn’t get petty about a kid helping himself that way.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. We also ate raw rhubarb with sugar. However, if you took Grandma’s sugar bowl and did not return it, life ended there and then. She loved her sugar. It was safer to snag a jar or coffee cup, sneak the sugar into that vessel for rhubarb dipping.

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      1. I was instructed early on that sugar for rhubarb went into its own bowl so Mom wouldn’t worry about me breaking the glass bowl. Once I had sugar, I was free to pull as much rhubarb as I wanted – knock the dirt off and dig in. Yum.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. My mother had a cracked coffee cup in the old smokehouse when she was a child. Is devoted to kohlrabi to this day.

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    1. Grandma was a smart, resourceful woman whose industry I respect to this day. Some of the memories are very pleasant. It was not the Waltons, though. In a large family like this there are schisms and tensions that along side the many good parts. For example, for years I was relentlessly bullied by JeanMarie’s older brothers who were mad at my mother for making them mind Grandma. The adults chose to ignore the bullying, which Is not a pleasant memory at all.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I enjoy your stories Jacque, and that is a clever coat of arms. I always enjoy your family lore.

    My dad told me he had gotten a phone call from a man who claimed to have discovered “the Grooms family coat of arms.” He was willing to share it with Dad in return for a payment. I think the man said the design featured a horse and a knight.

    Dad said, “I told him that his understanding of the Grooms family made the horse a likely element. Does the coat of arms show a guy in cheap clothes standing there holding the reins? That would be us. My people didn’t sit on horses. They held the reins.”

    Liked by 4 people

  7. My father’s would be a plow, an axe, and a train in front of birch trees. My sisters would be a gavel and a full calendar in front of birch trees. My brothers would be a pocket liner of pens in front of birch trees under a lightening-filled dark cloud. My mother’s would be a garden, or maybe just peonies under a rain cloud (her maiden name means weather). Mine, hmmm?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I will meld the Wetter and Birkholz names.
      Rain clouds over birch trees. Foreground: an ostrich with a crow on his back and his head buried in the sand.

      Liked by 7 people

  8. One of my maternal great grandmothers had an actual coat of arms. The family had been bigshots in around Bremen, Rotenberg and Achim Germany in the middle ages, and fell on hard times during the Reformation since they refused to become Lutherans and the occupying Swedes took exception to that and started to kill them off and interfere with their lands and such. You can see the coat of arms on old family burial vaults. Its main feature is a very large bear claw with a Knight’s helmet above it. The family name was Cluver.

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    1. We also have a framed needlepoint coat of arms from my mom’s father’s family, the Sterlings, from Wales. I’m looking at it… silver and black shield with some bird at the top, purple background, some other unintelligible figures in shades of blue on the sides, and “Gang (Going?) Forward” at the bottom. I really should do some research and go to Wales…

      Liked by 4 people

        1. My erstwife and I briefly toured in Wales in 1974. The Welsh were friendly, but astonished to find tourists in their country. They kept asking us, “Jesus! You are tourists? HERE? I mean, did you come here ON PURPOSE?”

          Liked by 1 person

  9. I like the idea of making up your own coat of arms. I think ours would have a terrier, along with a tulip, a tomato, and a psi symbol (for psychology). It would be surrounded by musical notes.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I too enjoy your family stories, Jacque.
    Our own coat of arms would have a diagonal line – something about a garden on one side, and a big tree with people dancing around it on the other. Maybe some musical notes for singing, but that’s copying Renee.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Delightful read, Jacque, and what a creative crest. Love “One Mell of a Hess.”

    My crest would include an anchor with some wavy lines behind it to represent my dad and the ocean; a golden Irish harp on a shamrock to represent my mother’s Irish roots and love of music. Below that, a heart with wings to symbolize my family’s love of traveling.

    Liked by 7 people

  12. I always thought of kohlrabi as resembling space ships. Husband really likes them. Neither side of my family ate them. Husband made a kohlrabi casserole, sort of like scalloped potatoes, once. It had mustard in it. I wasn’t too excited about it.

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    1. We actually never cooked them–I don’t think they lasted long enough to reach a pot. They are so delicious peeled, sliced thinly, and salted I don’t know why anyone would cook them.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. They are sort of nasty when they are cooked. I have never eaten them raw. Is liking radishes a prerequisite to liking raw kohlrabi? I don’t like radishes and maybe that is why I don’t like kohlrabi.

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        1. radishes have that in the nose thing about them and a bite on the tongue.
          kolrabe doesnt its kind of like eating clover or cucumbers just tastes of outdoors fresh and essence of the garden

          Liked by 3 people

    2. I’ve made that and liked it. Mustard has to be dijon and you don’t want to over cook them.

      Easier to just eat them raw.

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    3. I like kohlrabi and I have grown it. I should make some space in my garden for it next year. I don’t have any this year. I think I remember shredding raw kohlrabi and using it to make slaw.

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  13. If I include my the family out to cousins, we would have to figure out a way to encapsulate laughter. The one through-line for all the cousins, my aunt, my mom, my grandfather, my dad is laughter. Laughing at silly things, bad jokes, just the joy of being together. More immediately, my little family of three would be nicely encapsulated with a droopy hound, more of the above-mentioned musical notes, a coneflower, possibly an ace of spades (for Husband who plays bridge) and a book.

    Liked by 2 people

        1. My grandmother used to make it, and now my mother occasionally makes it. It’s a special occasion dish – think Thanksgiving or Christmas. It is best served in a clear, footed bowl so that all may observe and appreciate its loveliness. I will endeavor to remember to make it for an upcoming BCC (though maybe not our next one as it won’t survive outdoors for long since it’s about half whipped cream).

          Liked by 1 person

  14. our small family has embraced the motto, “that which does not kill us makes us stronger”.

    I suspect our 2 delinquents would pose as ” lions rampant” on either side a stack of books, surrounded by a wreath of raspberries, apples and wild roses.

    For those keeping track-our little house guest is fitting right in. The resident delinquents hiss at him and puffs up as big as he can, then decides to ignore them and have a drink from their water bowl.

    We did stuff everybody into carriers in the middle of the night and headed to the basement. Weird storm. Doesn’t look like too much damage.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had a garden arch that toppled in the wind, and had to pick up a couple of branches, but otherwise things looked pretty normal here. I did see a tree uprooted on Victoria yesterday, though.

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  15. On my mother’s side of the family I think an apple pie would be the right thing to put on the family crest. Both my mother and my grandmother made outstanding apple pies and so does my wife. For my father’s side of the family it would be cheese. My grandfather was a cheese maker and my dad was raised partly in a cheese factory. Several of my uncles were also cheese makers and I have visited one of the small cheese factories that one of my uncles managed. I guess apple pie with a slice of cheese would work well as a family crest.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. My grandfather made cheese in a series of small cheese factories that he owned. I think that my dad spent a lot of time in each of these factories because the family homes of cheese makers were usually near or attached to the small factories where the cheese was made. A cheese factory where my uncle made cheese had an apartment on the second floor where my uncle’s family lived. I suppose you could say all parts of my dad were raised, from time to time, in cheese factories.

        Liked by 2 people

  16. Yes, I am not in church. Had my signature whole-body cramp twice in the night. Muscles are heavy and aching. Joints throbbing, feel like they have been pulled apart.
    I think I promised a post a week through July. In any case first couple weeks of August I may not make it, or just ask a question. Miss the Main Man’s posts, but love the range and spirit of the guest blogs.

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  17. All this talk of gardening and produce – here’s my update. Have had seven little grape tomatoes come ripe so far. Like the raspberries, none of them made it into the house. Basil is growing faster than we can get it eaten, so I just chopped up a bunch this afternoon and froze it. So now my fingers are basil-stained, but they smell great!

    I’ll be off line the next week – might be able to stop in a few times, but no guarantees. Hope you all have a fabulous week!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. If I were to choose a vegetable for a crest, I think I’d choose the artichoke. They take a long time to cook, but are worth the wait. They are also very high in antioxidants.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Nice story Jacque, thanks.
    I love kohlrabi too. And grew some in the garden but mine is done this year.
    Never tried peeling it with my teeth though.
    How about jicama? We like them. Kinda similar in that ‘cut into slices, eat raw with salt’ kinda way…

    Our coat of arms would have a Holstein, standing on stage… maybe with light coming out of her eyes or something. And a tractor. And a bottle of Absorbine Jr.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. http://www.absorbinejr.com/

        My dad swore by this stuff. Remember in the movie ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ her dad used Windex for everything?
        Same thing with my dad and Absorbine Jr…
        It does have a rather pungent odor that one can *learn* to appreciate.
        My wife does not appreciate it so much.
        I’m a believer.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’m gonna get me some and try it. Heaven only knows I have enough body parts that could use some relief.

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