My daughter received a small cabbage plant from school the other day. She was supposed to water it, but at her age, daily chores are still quite a chore. As a result, after I waved goodbye to the kids from the window this morning, I looked down to find that the little cabbage plant had gone crispy. I watered it thoroughly, just in case its root was still alive in there somewhere, and while I was at it, I watered our two philodendrons as well. All this going back and forth with water from the kitchen sink initially drew my sleepy focus to a dark cluster of leaves poking up from the garbage disposal.
For a second, I was very confused. The leaves were whole, lush, and dark green. I certainly hadn’t put them there, and I hadn’t seen anyone eating spinach for breakfast. Then I remembered that my husband had eaten a plateful of spinach last night, drizzled with ranch dressing: one of his favorite simple vegetable dishes. So, that solve the mystery of why it looked like something was growing up out of my disposal. But my brain couldn’t leave that sudden moment of “which planet am I on” alone.
What if there really were disposal plants? my mind wondered. How cool would that be? Something alive in the bottom of our sinks, like a cross between a compost heap and a Venus flytrap! It would eat all our kitchen detritus, and through its digestive juices, keep that funky decomposing stink at bay, no citrus rinds required.
But it would make more sense, my brain continued, if the sink wasn’t really a porcelain sink. Some sort of garden circle, either in a giant pot, or just outside the kitchen door toward the garden, perhaps. And here I’ve already segued from reality, imagining a fantasy home with servants in the kitchen, who have a rather large plant because they produce so many kitchen scraps on a daily basis. I envision kitchen maids scraping potato peelings and eggshells and the outer, wilted leaves of lettuce from battered wooden platters into a deep, wide tub rather like half a wine barrel.
Within the tub, I imagine a sort of Sarlaac pit, with sloping dirt leading down to a cluster of leafy stems with bitey tips that sense and target food with rather more independent movement than your average Venus flytrap. Such a handy plant, it also consumes its own stems when they begin to wither.
But plants need maintenance, right? And what if no one wants to touch the bitey plant in case it nips them? So now I’m envisioning ants. A small, symbiotic colony that lives in the soil surrounding the plant and tends to the health of its roots. They’ll also fight opportunistically for the odd scrap that rises too high up the Sarlaac pit slope for the plant stems to reach. And how to keep this aggressive colony from escaping the pit pot? If the kitchen maids ever find one wandering from its home, they are instructed to step on it and put its tiny, mangled corpse at the edge of the pot. My ants have evolved to understand that when they discover their own dead, it marks the edge of their territory, unless food supplies run out. Which, within the pit pot, they never will.
So there’s my cool idea. I don’t know about you, but I think I would actually use such a plant, ants and all, if it were a thing. Would you?