15th Oct 1997
A big attraction at all top vegetable shows are the display of vegetables which always have the public milling around them, obviously for the quality of the vegetables but equally for the way that they have been artistically displayed. The collections I'm referring to are those such as the ones for six kinds of vegetables three of each kind where the leeks and celery are normally displayed vertically at the back of the collection and are real show stoppers from anywhere within the marquee.
There are other kinds of collections as well that are normally staged on the flat within permitted parameters, such a collection is our own Garden News Top tray and the British Tap Root Competition held by the Welsh branch of the NVS. Whatever sort of collection it may be there is one thing in common with all of them, the procedure for going about judging them should be the same.
I have covered the judging of collections before but since I have had a few letters of late regarding the same item, I shall once more go through the method or procedure that I think is the only way to judge them properly.
When the stewards remove the cloths form the exhibits and the judge enters the room and sees these wonderful majestic displays it is very easy to get overawed and work yourself into a state of panic. The last thing you want to do in a situation like that is to "get on with it"; if your heart is beating a few beats faster than normal, then take a slow walk up and down the exhibits leaving the scene soak into you by just looking closely at each collection in turn.
By the time you will have done this you may well, in your mind, have already picked out the winner, particularly if you are an experienced judge and grower. However more importantly, by the time you'll have finished your walk about you will have settled down and be ready for the arduous task ahead of you. During your stroll you will have noticed which dishes appear to be the strongest on each collection, there may be a number of excellent dishes on a particular collection, rarely however will any single collection have all the best dishes on it.
I am still told by some quite prominent judges that the only way to judge collections is to start with collection 1, judging and pointing each dish on it and arriving at a total number of points for that collection. You then move to the next collection and repeat the procedure with the winner being the collection with the highest number of points. This method in my opinion is totally wrong, there is no way that anybody can award points fairly to any single dish without first having compared that particular dish against others, particularly if you have a large number of entries.
The best procedure is to judge the backboards first before your legs are tired out as you climb up and down from the tables in order to carry out the job properly. The hearts of celery will have to be closely looked at for heart rot or bolting and the leeks will need close scrutiny as well just in case there's a seed head on the way out of the foliage. Always allow yourself sufficient time to asses all the merits and detect all the faults, hastiness often leads to an improper decision, however always have at the back of your mind that the show needs to be opened to the public at a certain time; be efficient not slow.
Lets start with judging Celery, you will have had a decent idea when you first walked up and down the collections which dish appeared to be the best, If after closer inspection it is till meritorious, start pointing that dish. You then assess and point up all the other celery dishes against that first dish which you have made your standard.
The same will then apply to the leeks and obviously once you have finished with the backboard you start on the flat with your onions carrots and parsnips etc. finding the best dish and pointing it with the remainder being pointed against that particular dish which would again be your standard. When you have completed your judging, the points are added together with the collection having the most points being the winner.
Vegetable Exhibitors Weekend
This aspect of judging may well be dealt with by Mr Malcolm Evans at my Vegetable Exhibitors weekend at Plas Tan y Bwlch study centre within the Snowdonia National Park. This is one of 7 lectures given by some of the Countries top growers that will take part from Friday evening the 31 October through to Sunday lunchtime 2 November. The centre can only accommodate 80 people and there could well be some places left; if you are interested give me a ring for further details on 01248 714 851. The all inclusive cost for the weekend is £120.00.