Suggestive veg: why a rude carrot can spark sheer joy – from ancient Egypt to today

Name: Suggestive vegetables.

Age: Ancient.

Appearance: Rude enough to derail a live broadcast.

Oh no, did I miss an episode of Countryfile: After Dark? Unfortunately not. The programme in question took part on Radio Samoa, during an interview with the New Zealand cabinet minister Carmel Sepuloni.

What on earth was she doing with a rude vegetable? She wasn’t doing anything. During a video interview, her son burst into the room brandishing a carrot that was shaped very much like a penis.

That’s awkward. Luckily, the interview feed cut just six seconds after first exposure to the carrot. Hopefully, this quick thinking will stop Radio Samoa viewers from degenerating into a gang of uncontrollably corrupted sex maniacs.

Could Sepuloni see the funny side, at least? Of course she could, because everyone loves a suggestive vegetable, don’t they? A potato with nipples. A potato that looks like a penis. A distinctly labial red pepper. Come on, this stuff is gold.

At least we’re not that puerile over here. Are you kidding? Readers of a certain age will be familiar with That’s Life, the BBC programme that frequently ran a segment in which the presenters would hold up rude-looking vegetables.

Yes, but that was decades ago. We’ve evolved since then. What about when Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby were reduced to helpless laughter by the sight of a carrot that urgently needed a bikini wax?

Um … Or the Instagram #rudevegetables hashtag, which exists to showcase all manner of biological produce? It’s an unbelievably busy hashtag.

Why vegetables, though? Who knows? Maybe it’s because there’s a long history of vegetable eroticism. Celibate priests in ancient Egypt were banned from eating onions in case it put them in the mood. In 1653, Nicholas Culpeper wrote that asparagus would “stirreth up bodily lust in men and women”. And that’s not to mention the aubergine emoji.

But why is it funny? Really? You don’t think it’s hilarious to see something as prosaic as a root vegetable come out of the ground looking like an avant garde Japanese sex toy? Surely the juxtaposition of the quotidian and the erotic is hopelessly amusing.

Is that how you’re rationalising it? Listen, you try intellectualising a phallic parsnip.

Do say: “There is nothing funny or sexy about vegetables.”

Don’t say: “That said, I could gobble a steaming bowl of cock-a-leekie soup.”

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