If Elvis came back, would he be out of his gourd? Okay, how about in his gourd? Could Ronald Reagan make it as a squash champion? Or would he be better as a champion squash? Can you picture Margaret Thatcher as a vegetable? If so, which vegetable?
Rick Tweddell, molder and shaper of impressionable growing things, has the answer to these melon-choly musings. Tweddell, a toy developer in Cincinnati, is the proud inventor of Vegiforms, plastic molds that make young vegetables ripen into familiar faces. Tweddell’s patented molds have produced astonishing (and nutritious) likenesses of George Bush, Linda Evans and David Letterman, as well as Reagan, Thatcher and Elvis.
Tweddell, 37, has been toying with the idea of anthropomorphic edibles since college days, when a summer farming job taught him, he says, that vegetables “are really very obliging about changing direction. If they come up to a tuft of grass, they’ll take a turn.” For his first experiment, he placed baby vegetables in bottles and pipes; they matured into bottle-and pipe-shaped produce. “The only problem was it was not very exciting,” he says. Then he grew squash in Pepsi bottles. “What I had,” he says, “was a six-pack of zucchini.” It was a short leap to a brand-new business.
Tweddell found that cucumbers, melons and squash are best for organic statuary and that some celebrities are better subjects than others. “Richard Nixon would be tough to do because of that nose,” he says. Dwight Eisenhower would be easy, though, because “bald guys are the best.”
So far, only five Vegiforms are for sale, at $9.95 each. There are cucumber-length diamond and heart shapes, a faux ear of corn and two faces Tweddell calls Garden Elf and Picklepuss. He has been unable to market the more famous look-alikes because of licensing costs, but he hopes that someday the Presley estate will agree to let him sell an eggplant Elvis. “We’d love to do him,” he explains, “because he grows so well.”
Tweddell sees potential for his product: Pumpkins could be grown into ready-made jack-o’-lanterns; humanoid pickles could peer from their jars; vanity Vegiforms could enable every gardener to make Aunt Mary into a cucumber.
Then there’s the ultimate appeal of a Vegiforms likeness: If you get tired of looking at it, you can slice it up and stir-fry it. Of course, to cook an eggplant Elvis, you’d need a jailhouse wok.