There's a TED talk going around in which a man takes an ordinary carrot and turns it into a fully functional clarinet. Maybe you saw that and thought about doing it, too. Maybe you're even planning out all the instruments in your new edible symphony. If that's the track you're on, you might want to slow down: The Vegetable Orchestra is already doing it.
The First Vienna Vegetable Orchestra (called Das erste Wiener Gemüseorchester in their native German) is an Austrian group that makes the instruments they use out of fresh vegetables. Since their founding in 1998, the group of musicians, visual artists, writers, sound poets, and other artists puts on 20 to 30 concerts a year. They even hold the record for the most concerts by a vegetable orchestra.
The group makes fresh instruments for each performance, spending about three hours building their instruments with kitchen utensils and powertools. The musicians buy their vegetables from farmer's markets wherever they visit to make sure they always have the highest quality available—according to an FAQ on their website, instruments will not work right or even break if they're not fresh enough.
Using vegetables requires an extended soundcheck to make sure that the instruments are loud enough to be used. At the end of every show, the audience gets a taste of the music in the form of soup made from whatever's leftover from the instruments. (If you're interested to trying it, don't worry—the soup never comes from instruments that have already been played.)
What they do may seem silly, but it's all business for the Vegetable Orchestra. They strive to produce music you haven't heard before, and. according to their website, are always looking for "a heterogeneous multitude of acoustic gems and strange, unfamiliar sounds whose organic origin is not always immediately recognizable."
The group has made three CDs: Gemise (a play on the German word for vegetable), Automate (from the word for tomato), and Onionoise (based on the English word for ... well, you get that one). They even hold workshops for those who are interested in vegetable-based music themselves.
Since the group is based in Europe and isn't currently planning an American tour, you might have to wait a while for the chance to see the Vegetable Orchestra live. You can still follow their adventures on the Internet, though: Check out how they get ready for a concert (plus a performance) below.