CLOSE

World Record Garden Produce

I picked the very first ripe tomato from my garden yesterday. It wasn't even big enough to cover a sandwich with a slice. There are much larger green tomatoes that will, whenever they ripen. But they are all small potatoes (so to speak) compared to the monsters that some serious gardeners grow. I'm talking about the biggest vegetables ever.

Prolific Cabbage Patch

The growing season is short in Alaska, so vegetables must grow as fast as they can. Steve Hubacek worked for 14 years to get his cabbages to grow very fast -and it worked. He entered a 125-pound cabbage in the "green cabbage" category at the Alaska State Fair in 2009, and not only won, but set a world record for the biggest cabbage. Then two days later, he brought out the big guns, er cabbage. The vegetable he called "The Beast" was entered in the annual Giant Cabbage Weigh-Off and recorded at 127 pounds, which broke his own record. Hubacek said the biggest cabbages don't taste so good, so the Beast was eventually made into compost to feed this year's crop.

Deep Roots

The world's longest carrot measured over 19 feet! Gardener Joe Atherton of Nottinghamshire, England, grows his carrots in plastic tubes, filled with a compost mix, set at a 45 degree angle, with watering holes placed at precise spots for maximum nutrition and drainage. One of his many tubes produced the record-setting root in 2007, after 14 months of growth.

When Life Gives you Lemons

In 2003, Aharon Shemoel grew a lemon that weighed 11 pounds, 9.7 ounces in his orchard at Kefar Zeitim, Israel. It appears to be a conjoined twin.

What a Melon!

The Lloyd Bright family grew a watermelon in 2005 that weighed 268.8 pounds, enough to feed an entire reunion. The Bright farm of Hope, Arkansas had already set two previous records for watermelons.

Digging Taters

The Year of the Potato was celebrated in 2008, so it was only appropriate that a record would be set. Khalil Semhat, a farmer in Tyre, Labanon dug up a potato that required help from a friend just to get it out of the ground. The huge tuber weighed 24.9 pounds! However, there were questions raised as to whether this was a potato or a sweet potato. Sweet potatoes grow much larger, and the world record sweet potato was an 81 pounder grown by Manuel Pérez Pérez of Spain in 2004.

The Guinness folks determined that the Lebanese potato was a sweet potato, and did not break the potato record, which had been held for ten years previously by Nigel Kermode. Kermode grew a 7 pound, 13 ounce spud on the Isle on Man in 1998.

The Great Pumpkin

The world record for the biggest pumpkin is broken almost every year as gardeners compete in contests all over. The current record is held by high school math teacher Christy Harp, who brought a 1,725 pound monster pumpkin to the Ohio Valley Giant Pumpkin Growers annual weigh-off in October of 2009.

Disney's "Tomato Tree"

A tomato vine growing in a greenhouse at The Land pavilion at Epcot Center produces up to 32,000 tomatoes a year! The tomatoes aren't all that big, but the combined weight of that many is over a thousand pounds. Disney agricultural scientist Yong Huang found the tomato variety in a laboratory in China and brought back the seeds to Florida. The huge vine has an extensive support matrix to allow it room to grow and spread and the enclosed greenhouse provides sunlight and temperature control for continuous growth. And Disney isn't telling the rest of the "tree's" secrets.

Tomato in the Cantaloupes

Gordon Graham experimented with his tomato plants in 1986. He figured a really big vine grown before the fruit set would be advantageous for larger fruit. One of Graham's vines grew to almost 14 feet when a storm blew it off its supports and into the cantaloupe patch. At that point, the gardener gave up on the vine and turned his attention to other plants. But the huge vine kept growing, more than tripling in length. Hidden among the cantaloupes, one tomato grew unnoticed until it reached gigantic proportions. Graham eventually saw the big tomato, which weighed seven pounds, 12 ounces when it was finally picked -a world record tomato!

The tomato was ultimately sliced into 21 sandwich slabs and eaten. The Miracle Gro company had a replica made with the same dimensions as the original and presented it to Graham as a record of the... record. Miracle Gro offers a cash prize to anyone growing a bigger tomato, but no one has been able to beat Graham's record yet.

With the new crops coming in and fair season underway, some of these records may be broken soon..

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Wolfgang via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
arrow
holidays
8 Legendary Monsters of Christmas
Wolfgang via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Wolfgang via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

The customs of the holiday season, which include St. Nicholas Day, New Years Day, and Epiphany, as well as Christmas, often incorporate earlier pagan traditions that have been appropriated and adapted for contemporary use. Customs that encourage little children to be good so as to deserve their Christmas gifts often come with a dark side: the punishment you'll receive from a monster or evil being of some sort if you aren't good! These nefarious characters vary from place to place, and they go by many different names and images.

1. KRAMPUS

As a tool to encourage good behavior in children, Santa serves as the carrot, and Krampus is the stick. Krampus is the evil demon anti-Santa, or maybe his evil twin. Krampus Night is celebrated on December 5, the eve of St. Nicholas Day in Austria and other parts of Europe. Public celebrations that night have many Krampuses walking the streets, looking for people to beat. Alcohol is also involved. Injuries in recent years have led to some reforms, such as requiring all Krampuses to wear numbers so they may identified in case of overly violent behavior.

Krampus may look like a devil, or like a wild alpine beast, depending on what materials are available to make a Krampus costume. In modern times, people can spend as much as they like to become the best Krampus around—and the tradition is spreading beyond Europe. Many cities in America have their own Krampus Nights now.

2. JÓLAKÖTTURINN

Jólakötturinn is the Icelandic Yule Cat or Christmas Cat. He is not a nice cat. In fact, he might eat you. This character is tied to an Icelandic tradition in which those who finished all their work on time received new clothes for Christmas, while those who were lazy did not (although this is mainly a threat). To encourage children to work hard, parents told the tale of the Yule Cat, saying that Jólakötturinn could tell who the lazy children were because they did not have at least one new item of clothing for Christmas—and these children would be sacrificed to the Yule Cat. This reminder tends to spur children into doing their chores! A poem written about the cat ends with a suggestion that children help out the needy, so they, too, can have the protection of new clothing. It's no wonder that Icelanders put in more overtime at work than most Europeans.

3. FRAU PERCHTA


Flickr // Markus Ortner

Tales told in Germany and Austria sometimes feature a witch named Frau Perchta who hands out both rewards and punishments during the 12 days of Christmas (December 25 through Epiphany on January 6). She is best known for her gruesome punishment of the sinful: She will rip out your internal organs and replace them with garbage. The ugly image of Perchta may show up in Christmas processions in Austria, somewhat like Krampus.

Perchta's story is thought to have descended from a legendary Alpine goddess of nature, who tends the forest most of the year and deals with humans only during Christmas. In modern celebrations, Perchta or a close relation may show up in processions during Fastnacht, the Alpine festival just before Lent. There may be some connection between Frau Perchta and the Italian witch La Befana, but La Befana isn't really a monster: she's an ugly but good witch who leaves presents.

4. BELSNICKEL

A drawing of Belsnickel.
Lucas, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Belsnickel is a male character from southwestern German lore who traveled to the United States and survives in Pennsylvania Dutch customs. He comes to children sometime before Christmas, wearing tattered old clothing and raggedy fur. Belsnickel carries a switch to frighten children and candy to reward them for good behavior. In modern visits, the switch is only used for noise, and to warn children they still have time to be good before Christmas. Then all the children get candy, if they are polite about it. The name Belsnickel is a portmanteau of the German belzen (meaning to wallop) and nickel for St. Nicholas. See a video of a Belsnickel visit here.

Knecht Ruprecht and Ru Klaas are similar characters from German folklore who dole out beatings to bad children, leaving St. Nicholas to reward good children with gifts.

5. HANS TRAPP

Hans Trapp is another "anti-Santa" who hands out punishment to bad children in the Alsace and Lorraine regions of France. The legend says that Trapp was a real man, a rich, greedy, and evil man, who worshiped Satan and was excommunicated from the Catholic Church. He was exiled into the forest where he preyed upon children, disguised as a scarecrow with straw jutting out from his clothing. He was about to eat one boy he captured when he was struck by lightning and killed—a punishment of his own from God. Still, he visits young children before Christmas, dressed as a scarecrow, to scare them into good behavior.

6. PÈRE FOUETTARD

The French legend of Père Fouettard, whose name translates to "Father Whipper," begins with an evil butcher who craved children to eat. He (or his wife) lured three boys into his butcher shop, where he killed, chopped, and salted them. St. Nicholas came to the rescue, resurrected the boys, and took custody of the butcher. The captive butcher became Père Fouettard, St. Nicholas' servant whose job it is to dispense punishment to bad children on St. Nicholas Day.

7. THE YULE LADS

The Jólasveinar, or Yule Lads, are 13 Icelandic trolls, who each have a name and distinct personality. In ancient times, they stole things and caused trouble around Christmastime, so they were used to scare children into behaving, like the Yule Cat. However, the 20th century brought tales of the benevolent Norwegian figure Julenisse (Santa Claus), who brought gifts to good children. The traditions became mingled, until the formerly devilish Jólasveinar became kind enough to leave gifts in shoes that children leave out ... if they are good boys and girls. 

8. GRÝLA

All the Yule Lads answer to Grýla, their mother. She predates the Yule Lads in Icelandic legend as the ogress who kidnaps, cooks, and eats children who don't obey their parents. She only became associated with Christmas in the 17th century, when she was assigned to be the mother of the Yule Lads. According to legend, Grýla had three different husbands and 72 children, all who caused trouble ranging from harmless mischief to murder. As if the household wasn't crowded enough, the Yule Cat also lives with Grýla. This ogress is so much of a troublemaker that The Onion blamed her for the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano.

A version of this post originally ran in 2013. See also: more Legendary Monsters

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Keystone/Getty Images
arrow
History
84 Years Ago Today: Goodbye Prohibition!
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
Keystone/Getty Images

It was 84 years ago today that the Twenty-First Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, repealing the earlier Amendment that declared the manufacture, sale, and transport of alcohol illegal in the United States. Prohibition was over! Booze that had been illegal for 13 years was suddenly legal again, and our long national nightmare was finally over.


A giant barrel of beer, part of a demonstration against prohibition in America.
Henry Guttmann/Getty Images

Prohibition of alcohol was not a popular doctrine. It turned formerly law-abiding citizens into criminals. It overwhelmed police with enforcement duties and gave rise to organized crime. In cities like Milwaukee and St. Louis, the dismantling of breweries left thousands of people unemployed.


Photograph courtesy of the Boston Public Library

Homemade alcohol was often dangerous and some people died from drinking it. Some turned to Sterno or industrial alcohol, which was dangerous and sometimes poisoned by the government to discourage drinking. State and federal governments were spending a lot of money on enforcement, while missing out on taxes from alcohol.


New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach (right) watches agents pour liquor into sewer following a raid during the height of Prohibition.

The midterm elections of 1930 saw the majority in Congress switch from Republican to Democratic, signaling a shift in public opinion about Prohibition as well as concerns about the depressed economy. Franklin Roosevelt, who urged repeal, was elected president in 1932. The Twenty-first Amendment to the Constitution was proposed by Congress in February of 1933, the sole purpose of which was to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment establishing Prohibition.


American men guarding their private beer brewing hide-out, during Prohibition.
Keystone/Getty Images

With passage of the Constitutional Amendment to repeal Prohibition a foregone conclusion, a huge number of businessmen lined up at the Board of Health offices in New York in April of 1933 to apply for liquor licenses to be issued as soon as the repeal was ratified.

The Amendment was ratified by the states by the mechanism of special state ratifying conventions instead of state legislatures. Many states ratified the repeal as soon as conventions could be organized. The ratifications by the required two-thirds of the states was achieved on December 5, 1933, when conventions in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah agreed to repeal Prohibition through the Amendment.


Workmen unloading crates of beer stacked at a New York brewery shortly after the repeal of Prohibition.
Keystone/Getty Images

A brewery warehouse in New York stacked crates past the ceiling to satisfy a thirsty nation after the repeal of Prohibition.


Keystone/Getty Images

Liquor wouldn't officially be legal until December 15th, but Americans celebrated openly anyway, and in most places, law enforcement officials let them.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios