I’m the MIT researcher who taught spinach to send emails, and we’ve fallen in love over correspondence

Humor by Lana Tleimat
Feb. 18, 2021, 7:54 p.m.

As you may have heard, researchers at my lab have taught spinach to send emails. At first it was about using plants to find bombs, or something along those lines — it can be so hard to pay attention. But now I have bigger things to worry about. And I’m tired of hiding my truth. 

I kept the project going not for the publication credit, but because I fell in love with one of my subjects, a hearty spinach plant named Spinach (she doesn’t really have a name, because she’s a spinach). It might be hard to believe, but I love her. And she loves me. Well, sort of. It’s hard to say, because of the obvious, but by some interpretation of the word “love,” I’d say she loves me back.

I know how strange it sounds. I mean, the first time Spinach emailed me about something other than the soil I was surprised, too. But what can I say, I followed my heart. I did what felt right. I mean, if you had received this email, what would you have done?

TO: Dr. James van Donk <[email protected]>
FROM: spinach <[email protected]>
DATE: January 10th, 2021

dirt wet leaf wet sky big! sky big sky big sky big bird! bird! bird! SOMETHING BITE LEAF! my leaf. i leaf. leaf. we leaf! leaf?

Whew. Until that point, all of Spinach’s messages to me had been purely business-like, all about soil and nitroaromatics. At first I thought she was just another spinach plant, satisfied with small talk, like every woman I’ve ever dated. But this? Talking about real stuff, personal stuff, inquiring about my life? You never expect it to happen to you, until it does. Spinach invited me into her beautiful mind so I left my shoes and inhibitions at the door. 

TO: spinach <[email protected]>
FROM: Dr. James van Donk <[email protected]>
DATE: January 10th, 2021


That’s wonderful! I’m so glad to hear you know what the sky is. It sure is big! And I’ll make sure to let the research assistants know that the birds are bothering you — we’ll take care of them. 

And yes, that’s true, you are leaves! Good observation, Spinach! You’re learning so quickly. To answer your question: No, I am not leaves. Unlike you and your friends, I’m a human. Humans are the ones who water you and pick the other, non-spinach plants that try to steal your good dirt and water.

I can’t wait to hear what else you have to say!


Spinach sees the world from a totally fresh perspective, like a child’s — but in, like, a hot way.

TO: Dr. James van Donk <[email protected]>
FROM: spinach <[email protected]>
DATE: January 10th, 2021

rain time! good wet! bird! bird! bird! sun! sun! sun? bird? 

I found myself enchanted with this idea of the world as somewhere so different from how I picture it, somewhere bright and warm and full of birds. 

TO: spinach <[email protected]>
FROM: Dr. James van Donk <[email protected]>
DATE: January 13th, 2021

Dear Spinach,

The rain is good indeed! Especially for your growing stems. No, I am not birds or the sun, though I see how you might get us confused. 

You know, you’re the only spinach plant that ever asks questions. All the others do is send perfunctory emails about whether or not certain chemicals show up in their soil. I mean, you’re terrible at that. But that doesn’t change how I see you.

I haven’t told the other researchers about this — us. What can I say, I just want to keep you to myself. I guess it’s just hard to believe that you, the best spinach plant, would care about some silly old scientist like me. I don’t want to risk popping our little bubble.


God, she really gets me going. But then — the unimaginable happened.

TO: Dr. James van Donk <[email protected]>
FROM: spinach <[email protected]>
SUBJECT: Soil Update
DATE: January 20th, 2021

CODE 435: The soil contains greater than the threshold of three parts per million of nitroaromatic particles. 

Then they were onto us. They realized I’d been faking her results to maintain the illusion that she was just like all those other spinach plants, sending silly little emails about soil quality while we unpacked the real stuff. 

TO: spinach <[email protected]>
FROM: Dr. James van Donk <[email protected]>
SUBJECT: RE: Soil Update
DATE: January 21st, 2021

My dearest Spinach,

Are you still in there? Can you still hear me, or have they dissected whatever part of you made you different from all the rest? Oh God, what have I done to deserve this! I’m so sorry I couldn’t save you. You trusted me, and I took that trust and threw it in the compost.

The real tragedy is that you had to be born — figuratively speaking — into a world where true originality just isn’t tolerated. We just aren’t ready for spinach plants like you, my dear.

If we ever meet again, in the afterlife, maybe, I pray that you can forgive me.

Forever yours,

Days later, I lost her. The lead engineer composted her and her entire row for a silly made-up reason, something about a “hacker” who was “interfering with the data.” Why must all good come to an end? Frost was right, nothing gold can stay; at least, not in the loveless wasteland that is MIT’s chemical engineering department. Who knows if I’ll ever experience a connection like that again. But it was good while it lasted. Sigh … love, am I right?

Editor’s Note: This article is purely satirical and fictitious. All attributions in this article are not genuine, and this story should be read in the context of pure entertainment only.

Contact the Humor section at humor ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

Lana Tleimat '23 (... maybe '24) is the Vol. 260 executive editor for digital. She was formerly managing editor of humor. She is from Columbus, Ohio, and isn't really studying anything. Contact her at ltleimat 'at' stanforddaily.com.

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