“Eat all your vegetables young man”, Herb heard his mother say. “But Mama”, Herb protested. “But nothing young man. Don’t you want to be big and strong like your brother Aaron?” asked Mrs. Taylor. “Yes, but—“, Herb started. Herb did NOT like vegetables, and he was sick and tired of his mother always telling him how good they were for him.
“I don’t want to hear it, Herb, said his mother. Besides, after you eat your veggies, I’ll give you a nice big bowl of ice cream.” “What kind?” “Oh, praline and caramel swirl with nuts”, answered his mother. “Oh, Mama, that’s my favorite!” Herb shouted. He quickly cleaned his plate of spinach and corn, letting most of it slip under the table onto the floor.
Esther Taylor was a smart woman so her son’s actions were not hid from her. But she gave him the ice cream anyway, as promised. Out of Herb’s eyesight, she shook her head sadly, thinking to herself, ‘he’ll never be as big as Aaron. Too bad, it seems he’ll always stay the scrawny little thing he is, but what can I do?’
Later that night, when Herb lay down he went to sleep as soon as his head hit the pillow—totally exhausted and full from dinner. And, because he’d had too much ice cream, Herb had a very strange dream. Suddenly, Herb found himself outside his house looking at an enchanted garden. The garden was full of all kinds of vegetables: carrots, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, beets, radishes, string beans, cucumbers, cabbage, turnips, collards, mustards, kale, red and green peppers, onions, squash, broccoli, and yes, even spinach.
Herb could NOT believe his eyes! “This is beautiful!” he thought aloud. But just as he was about to reach out his hand and grab a bite of tomatoes, a strange thing happened. The ‘head’ tomato shook his finger at Herb, saying, “Unh-unh-unh—you don’t like us. Remember?” Well, that surprised Herb, so he thought he’d go another direction. He turned down the path where the string beans lived, but just as he was about to put a few in his mouth, Mr. Bean Sprout shook his head and said, “Get away, you don’t like us! Remember?”
By now, Herb was getting hungry; the farther out into the garden he went the hungrier he got, and all the veggies looked so delicious. Unfortunately, however, each time he reached out to grab a bite to eat, he was rejected. Pretty soon all the veggies started running away from Herb. By now, little Herb was so hungry he didn’t know what to do. In fact, he was so hungry that he just sat down on his front steps and began to cry.
He just could NOT understand why the veggies were running away from him. “Why are they being so mean to me, all I wanted was a little bite”, he wailed. He cried so long and so hard that his tears began to fill up the whole garden. Pretty soon the garden was so well watered with his tears that it began to grow bigger and bigger—and even more beautiful!
“Now you know how we feel”, said a small voice. Surprised, Herb stopped crying for a moment and peaked around the corner. “Who said that?” he asked. There before his eyes stood a baby spinach leaf. “Did you say that?” he asked. “No, it was me”, said little tomato. At this point, Mr. Squash and Mr. Broccoli chimed, “We all said it.”
“Why don’t you like us? Mr. Cabbage Head wanted to know. All we ever wanted was for you to be a big, strong, healthy boy. But NO, you’d rather have ice cream and cake and cookies and candy, and all that other stuff that’s no good for your body.” “Of course ice cream and cake are good to have once in a while, but don’t ignore us, added Mr. Spinach. We love you, Herb, but you gotta show us some love too.”
Herb was quiet for a moment; as he began to see just how grand the vegetable garden had become. “This is your garden, Herb, just look how great it is!” said Mr. Spinach. With that Herb reached out to grab a handful of spinach, and this time he ate and ate, until he could eat no more.
“Herb, Herb, wake up, said his brother Aaron, gently shaking him. You’d better get up, you’re gonna be late for school!” All day at school, Herb kept thinking about his dream. That night at dinner, Herb ate all his turnips and tomatoes, without a fuss. Mrs. Taylor seemed very surprised. “What’s gotten into you, young man?” she asked. “Oh nothing, Mama.” Then just before bedtime, Herb asked his mother about planting some collard greens and cabbage seeds out in their back yard. “Why of course you can”, she responded happily. Herb had learned his lesson; from that night on he ate all his veggies, just like his mother had told him. Mrs. Taylor just smiled to herself, ‘I thought that big bowl of ice cream might do the trick’.