Supporting Your Local Show
30th Aug 2003
If you've had a successful season with your vegetables this Summer, why not take a casual stroll through the plot and have a closer look at some of the cultivars with a view of supporting your local flower show. Summer Flower Shows in this country are part of our heritage and must be preserved as much as possible. However they can only be preserved if the likes of you and me compete in them and keep them alive. I can assure you it can be great fun and you will make lots of new friends.
You may not be too sure how to go about it, if so, the first thing to do is to find out where the show is held, who the secretary is and ask for a show schedule. The schedule will list out all the classes and you can then decide which of them you want to enter a particular produce in. Read the schedule thoroughly to make sure that you follow exactly what it says, many exhibits are often not even looked at by the judge simply because the do not conform with the schedule. Don"t forget, this is the same schedule that the judge will be using and is always considered to be the bible on the day.
Standards and Points
All vegetables are judged to two standards, ether the Royal Horticultural Society or the National Vegetable Society. Both Societies have produced handbooks that are a 'must have' for show organisers, judges and exhibitors. (picture attached) Inside the books all vegetables are awarded points according to the degree of difficulty in growing a perfect specimen with 20 points being the maximum. At the top end of the pointing system you have Onions, Leeks, Celery, Parsnips to name just a few. Towards the lower end you have some of the easier to grow vegetables such as lettuce, globe beetroot, and Cabbages, these have a maximum of 15 points.
Initially, don"t be too adventurous, pick some of the 15 pointed vegetables or lower to start with. Globe Beetroot are a good example, they should be approximately between 50 and 70mm in diameter with the tap root intact. They should have smooth skins with no sign of scab and the flesh to have an uniform dark colour. A good tip, after washing your beetroot clean with a soft sponge, leave them soak in half a bucket of water (that's had a handful of salt added) for about three to four hours. This will remove any white internal rings and lends your exhibit more able to satisfy the criteria that the judge is looking for. The judge will cut right through one beetroot from each dish in the class to look for the absence of white internal rings. (picture attached)
Lettuce, particularly the butterhead varieties, are not difficult to grow or show provided they are at the right condition on the day. Preferably, harvest these at the last minute, to make sure they remain fresh and turgid to face the judge. Lift them with a hand fork and wrap the roots in kitchen paper, moisten and place the roots in a polythene bag. The heart of the lettuce should be firm and showing no signs of bolting or going to seed, it should be tender with the leaves unbroken and showing no signs of pest damage.
Green cabbages are usually popular at most local village shows, they should be shapely, fresh with solid well filled hearts, the surrounding leaves should be as perfect as you can get them. The bloom should be intact to indicate freshness, cut the cabbages with approximately 75mm of stalk attached (this will prove that you have actually grown them!) place them on the table side by side to face the judge. (picture attached)
People seem to think that the criteria 'Size' which appertains to show vegetables, is the most important criteria of all. ‘Size' in fact is often only 25% of the overall points with ‘Condition' being often the most paramount. Naturally, when two competing exhibits appear to be on par, then the adage that ‘a good big one will always beat a good little one' is perfectly true. At the end of the day vegetables are for eating, and the National vegetable Society has a saying ‘If you cant eat it, you don't show it'. Enjoy the experience and I hope your trug will be overflowing with prize cards.