Height of the Showing Season
17th Aug 2000
This is crunch time for many of us, it's that time of year when shows are everywhere and you really find out whether all the hard work that you have put into the growing has come up trumps. This weekend I shall be down in one of the most beautiful areas of Britain in the County of Pembrokeshire where the Welsh National Vegetable Society Championships are being held. I shall be writing a special report on this show which will also cover the Welsh Millennium Rose Championships, the Welsh Millennium Dahlia Championships and the Pembrokeshire Floral Art Championships.
Lifting and Harvesting
After writing this article I shall be going straight out into the garden to make a start on harvesting some of the vegetables and as the standard of competition is so high I need to give myself plenty of time to do a thorough job of it. I have learnt from past experience that it's impossible to leave everything until the last minute so I have worked out which ones to lift or harvest first. The first to be lifted today will be the long black beet, they have a tremendous top on them but whether or not they will have the right length of body and no cracks around the shoulders will remain to be seen.
I have three specimens in each barrel and I shall therefore clear the sand form around each station to decide which ones best match each other in size. Once that has been determined I will then cut off the top foliage leaving approx. 4 to five inches of stalks which will finally be trimmed down to 3 inches should they be in the final set. My next job is remove some sand from around each beetroot exposing at least six inches of the body so that I can have a good grip with one hand around the body and the other around the stalks. Prior to trying to pull any of them, the well around each selected specimen will be filled with water and then left to soak down into the bore hole. After a couple more soakings I will then endeavour to pull the beetroot using a pulling and gently twisting motion.
This twisting is done in an anti clockwise direction initially in order to go with any of the slight spiralling that the root might have. When turning the root around you will also be snapping off any side roots that might make it more difficult to pull the specimen straight out. Should the main body snap right off then don't worry, it wouldn't have been any good anyway as it was probably either badly bent or badly forked. Within the first few minutes of pulling all the roots I can tell if they are going to be good specimens by the way the body will turn around within the bore hole. If they turn around completely off centre then you can rest assured that you have a badly bent specimen. If however the body turns around inside the bore hole within it's own circle then you will have a really good straight example.
Other Root Vegetables
The above method is used on all my root vegetables including the short carrots and parsnips and immediately after I have stooped turning the roots around and starting to pull upwards, there will soon be heard a small click where the root is released from the bottom of the bore hole. A good specimen will give you just one click and the whole body will come out of the bore hole intact. If you hear more than one click then the probability is that there will be some fairly large side roots attached which will more than likely prevent you from staging that particular specimen at the highest level.
When any of these specimens are pulled out very slowly from the bore hole, there is no better feeling of relief and pride than to see a near perfect carrot or parsnip being withdrawn to daylight for the very first time. From this point on great care must be taken that you don't damage it any way and previous to pulling them I will already have filled my old galvanised bath tub will clean water and the hose pipe will be kept just dribbling into it to make sure the water stays clean. Before being immersed into the bath I use the hose pipe to give them a quick rinse in order to get rid of most of the dirt and prevent the bath water from getting dirty too quickly.
Washing all your specimens in clean water is vital, many times I have seen over the years fine roots specimens that have been dull in colour after having been improperly washed. A well cleaned carrot or parsnip will sparkle and will stay fresh if looked after properly right through to beyond judging time. Washing in dirty water will make a good specimen worse, all the fine sandy grit swilling around in the water will be caught in your sponge and get ingrained into the body of the roots and once that root has dried off, it will stay dull.
Once cleaned up they are then carried from the bottom of my garden to the garage where two tables will have already been laid out and covered with immaculately clean polythene. They are then laid out on the tables side by side with a piece of stalk positioned underneath the two outside specimens to prevent a disaster from occurring, believe me they can very easily roll off the table and on to the floor. They are then covered over with some clean tissue and sprayed with clean water, finally they are covered over again with black polythene to prevent any light from getting at them as well as to keep the roots moist.
Next week I shall continue on this harvesting theme as well as packing and transportation to show and the actual staging.