Characters: Bikky, Ryo.
Setting: Early in the manga.
Summary: A simple question gets Bikky a lesson in the wonders of vegetables.
Written Using: The dw100 prompt ‘Pod’.
Word Count: 940
Disclaimer: I don’t own FAKE, or the characters. They belong to the wonderful Sanami Matoh.
“What’re those green things?” Bikky asked as he watched Ryo unpacking bags of groceries in the kitchen.
Ryo glanced across to see which of the green vegetables he’d bought the boy was referring to, and smiled.
“Those would be peas.”
Bikky frowned at his foster father; who did Ryo think he was kidding? Peas were small and round; everybody knew that. These things were weird, flattish and a bit lumpy in places.
“No they’re not!”
Pausing in his unpacking, Ryo turned to the boy. “Where do you think peas come from?”
“The freezer of course!” Just because Bikky was only ten didn’t mean he didn’t know stuff.
“Well yes, I suppose that’s true in a way, but where do you think they come from before that? And don’t say the supermarket.”
Bikky had been about to say just that so he shut his mouth and thought hard, his frown deepening. Peas were green, which meant they were vegetables, and he knew that vegetables were kind of like plants and so they must grow from seeds the way flowers did; he’d learned about that in school. Was that what Ryo was asking him?
“They grow, like flowers and weeds and stuff.”
“That’s right!” Ryo smiled warmly at him, the smile that made Bikky feel good, like his foster father was proud of him. “They’re grown on farms, just like other food crops. Out in the countryside somewhere there are fields full of growing peas.”
Thinking about that, Bikky tried to picture fields full of plants, covered in the little green blobs of growing peas. It must look awfully weird.
Ryo was speaking again, picking up one of the green objects that had started the conversation. “The pea plants grow and flower. Bees come along and carry pollen from one flower to the next, and then seedpods start to develop, just like this one. When they’re big enough they’re picked.” He gently squeezed the edges of the pod and with a popping sound it opened.
Bikky’s eyes widened; inside the pod was a row of small, round peas. “Wow! They really are peas!”
“Of course they are. I wouldn’t lie to you, Bikky. Usually the peas get shucked and frozen as soon as they’re picked, to make sure they stay at their freshest until they’re eaten, but I saw these at a farmer’s market and I couldn’t resist getting them. My dad used to grow vegetables in our backyard when I was a kid and I used to love shucking the peas, but I haven’t done that in a long time. You don’t often see peas for sale still in their pods these days. I thought we could have them for dinner with mashed potatoes and the rest of the chicken from yesterday.”
“Cool! Can I help with unpacking the peas?”
“Sure. Why don’t you wash your hands and get started while I put the rest of the groceries away? Get the plastic bowl from the bottom cupboard to put the peas in. Just squeeze the sides of the pods gently and they’ll pop right open.”
Bikky did as he was told, washing his hands and fetching the old mixing bowl Ryo used when he was peeling vegetables. Sitting at the table, he picked up a pod; it was smooth to the touch and he could feel the little lumps of peas inside it.
Ryo had called them seedpods, which meant… Oh! “So peas are like plant seeds?”
“If we planted them, would we grow more peas?”
“Not from these, they’re not ripe enough for sowing. If the pods are left on the plants long enough, they dry out and the peas inside turn hard, just like other plant seeds. Once they’re hard and wrinkly that means they can be stored somewhere cool and dry until its time to sow them in spring. Unripe seeds wouldn’t last; they’re too soft, they’d just rot away and be wasted.”
“Huh.” Bikky popped the pod and coaxed the peas out, into the bowl. “What do we do with the pod parts?”
“They’ll have to be thrown away.”
“That’s kinda wasteful, isn’t it?” Bikky imagined the fields full of pea plants, and all the unwanted bits left over after the peas were taken out.
“Farms rot them down and dig them back into the ground to put nutrients back into the dirt, so the next crops that are grown there will do well. Plants need food in order to grow, just like you do.” Putting the last items away, Ryo washed his hands and joined Bikky at the table, picking up a peapod and popping it open. “Look out for any bad peas, we don’t want to eat anything that’s brown or furry.”
Bikky wrinkled his nose, exclaiming, “Yuk! No way!” But he kept on shucking peas, dropping the empty pods into a bag for disposal. Another thought occurred to him. “So do green beans grow on plants too?”
“Yes, green beans and runner beans are climbing plants, and we eat the pods as well as the seeds, but broad beans are more like peas, the beans are taken out of the pods to be eaten.”
“What about carrots, and potatoes?”
“Well, those are root vegetables. The parts of the plants above ground aren’t good to eat, but the roots are. Then there are things like cabbage and lettuce where it’s the leaves that are edible.”
Bikky fell silent, thinking about all he’d learned today as he continued shucking peas, enjoying the way they popped when they were squeezed. Vegetables, he decided, were a whole lot more interesting than he ever could have imagined.