Carrots, potatoes, and cucumbers have often caused amusement to men who find that the shapes of these vegetables resemble parts of their own anatomy.

It’s believed that the monastery on Lindisfarne was the first to ban these particular vegetables from their kitchen garden in the 8th Century. This was due to the Abbot’s belief that all temptation must be removed from the monks’ lives. He was convinced that stroking a carrot or fondling a potato could instill carnal desires in the mind of a monk, especially on a dark winter’s night when they all huddled for warmth around a solitary candle.

The Abbot wrote “It be a sin before God to stroke a carrot and think of thy brother monk in an unnatural way.” Leeks, rhubarb, and celery were tolerated, although they couldn’t be grown any longer than two feet in length for fear of them being used in “pain or pleasure” sessions in the refectory before matins.

In the 1360s there must have been a particularly healthy crop of carrots and cucumbers as the local chronicler in Chillingham in Northumberland reported “ye multitude of faintinges and swooningges” amongst the local ladies on market days. It’s believed that the obscene vegetable competition started at this time.

Men could enter up to three carrots, five potatoes, and four cucumbers in the competition. Another category for miscellaneous veggies was added in the 1420s when some weirdly wonderful parsnips caused much mirth in a local hamlet. Prizes are awarded for the most anatomically correct vegetables.

The rules are very strict. Each vegetable must be entire of itself and can’t have been carved, whittled, or artificially straightened in any way. Competitors can’t glue vegetables together nor can they use specially shaped moulds to produce their obscene vegetables.

The most successful competitor was the 19th Century farmer Roger Myall, who won the carrot and cucumber competitions twelve years in a row. Rumours spread that Myall was in league with the devil who it was thought pulled Myall’s carrots downwards towards hell in exchange for Myall’s soul when he died.

Harold Miget was the most unsuccessful competitor. He entered the miscellaneous vegetable competition 67 years in a row and failed to win a prize. He thought that his peas and Brussels Sprouts were obscene in the eyes of God because of their round shape. The judges, who tended to be atheists, couldn’t share this view and never awarded Miget a prize.

This is an extract from the book 40 Humourous British Traditions by Julian Worker

This is an extract from the book 40 Humourous British Traditions by Julian Worker